Climate campaigners take UK government to court over net-zero strategy

Three climate campaign groups are challenging the government on its net zero strategy in the High Court, arguing it falls short of legal obligations to combat the climate crisis.

The government is required to ensure legally binding carbon budgets are met under the Climate Change Act, but ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and Good Law Project are making the claim that the government’s climate plans are inadequate.

They say the Net Zero Strategy doesn’t provide enough information on how climate policies will affect emission reductions or the timescales in which climate projects will be developed.

tables and chairs inside the hall

Sam Hunter Jones, senior lawyer at ClientEarth, said: ‘The bottom line is that the government simply hasn’t done the job of showing that its plans are credible for delivering its climate targets over the next five, ten and fifteen years.

‘The government’s lack of a real-world plan fails people now and into the future as they live with the consequences of inaction. This is all the more critical now as many of the steps needed to cut emissions today are the same ones needed to help people struggling with soaring energy bills.’

The Net Zero Strategy published in October lays out plans to slash carbon emissions to zero by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

It includes measures to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, provide grants for energy efficiency improvements and provide incentives for low-carbon farming methods.

But lawyers say the strategy is full of holes and it’s unclear whether the government has accounted for emissions that will be produced through other policies, for example its road building programme.

Friends of the Earth lawyer, Katie de Kauwe, said: ‘The Secretary of State is legally required to meet our upcoming carbon budgets. Warm words and a theoretical delivery pathway for making the necessary emission reductions are simply not good enough.

‘The lack of information in the Net Zero Strategy is a worrying omission in terms of transparency and accountability to Parliament and the public and, we believe, a clear breach of the Climate Change Act.’

The campaign groups filed their cases separately, but the High Court decided to hear all three at the same time in a hearing scheduled to conclude today.

In related news, new research reveals the world may have less time to reach Paris Agreement temperature targets and have a significantly smaller carbon budget than first thought.

Photo by Aditya Joshi


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