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UK Government faces high court and judicial review for climate failures

In two separate cases, Downing Street faces intense scrutiny over environmental inaction, as a new study shows just 25% of the public believes national politics is on their side. 

A two-day ‘rolled-up’ judicial review into the UK Government’s National Adaptation Plan is set for the High Court on 18th and 19th June 2024. This follows action by Friends of the Earth and two individuals who believe their lives have been severely impacted by the climate crisis. 

Kevin Jordon’s home was demolished due to coastal erosion just before last Christmas, and Doug Palley has health conditions exacerbated by summer heat waves. The claimants’ collective argument is that the current roadmap for Britain’s transition to clean energy, biodiversity improvements, waste reduction and other environmental issues is not fit for purpose. 

‘This country is completely under-prepared for the impacts of climate change, and the threat it poses to the homes, lives and livelihoods of thousands of people across the country,’ said Jordan. ‘When I bought my house 14 years ago, I was told it would be safe for about another 100 years. It wasn’t. I may have lost my home to climate change, but the fight goes on. I hope this legal challenge forces the government to draw up a more ambitious and effective climate adaptation plan that better protect us all.’

‘Climate change is a major threat to us all, but the government must also recognise that disabled communities are disproportionately affected and often have additional support needs when a crisis hits. Many people like me who lived in a care home during the Covid pandemic will have experienced the fear and helplessness of feeling abandoned in a crisis. We mustn’t let this happen with climate change,’ added Paulley. ‘I’m delighted the High Court will hear our legal challenge. The government’s climate adaption plan must be revised to better protect everyone, especially those in the most vulnerable situations, from the impacts of the growing climate crisis.’

The case echoes a recent win by campaigners in Europe, with the Swiss Government found to have neglected in its duties to protect its own citizens from climate change, and comes as the UK Government potentially faces another High Court action at the hands of The Good Law Project and Rights Community Action. The organisations are gathering support for a case against Housing & Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove, arguing that housing policy blocks local communities from ensuring homes are fit for the future in terms of energy performance and environmental impact. 

This reflects wider concerns that Westminster fails to empower change on a local level. According to recent Ipsos research, commissioned by the Local Government Information Unit [LGIU], just 25% of people aged 18-75 in England believe central Government acts in the best interests of local communities. By comparison, 57% say their local councillors have the biggest impact on their quality of life, with just 14% considering Westminster to have more influence. Local politicians also had the higher level of trust placed in them than MPs and cabinet ministers, although only 43% had faith in their nearest representative. This lags far behind the police (55%), local groups (68%) and local businesses (61%). 

‘These findings show the public clearly recognise the important role local councils and councillors play, and people trust them more than central government to act in the interests of people in their local area,’ said Cameron Garrett, Research Manager at Ipsos. ‘In this context it is then perhaps unsurprising that there is support for more decision making to happen at the local level. However, outcomes are still key, with people prioritising the right decision being made and still wanting to incorporate decision makers with expertise. Certainly, the public are not impressed with current outcomes with nearly half saying the quality of local services has worsened over the past five years, and trust declining across nearly all stakeholders to act in the best interests of local people.’

More on climate change and net zero:

Is the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive too much, too soon?

G20 members make limited progress on decarbonisation

Human rights violated by climate inaction, European court rules

Image: Royal Courts of Justice








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