UK Government faces human rights challenge over climate crisis

Two individuals are working with the environmental justice group Friends of the Earth to bring caught action against Downing Street for failing to protect frontline communities. 

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Filed mid-October, the action requests a judicial review of the UK Government’s National Adaptation Programme (NAP). The case rests on whether this has provided adequate safeguards to save lives in areas of the country worst effected by climate change. 

Since the Climate Change Act 2008 was passed, every five years the Government must produce an NAP, the most recent of which, NAP3, was published in July this year. The content should set out clear objectives for how communities can be made more resilient to conditions including extreme heat, and floods.

Disability rights activist Doug Paulley, Kevin Jordan – a campaigner trying to save their home from coastal erosion – and Friends of the Earth now argue the UK Government has neglected to meet its responsibilities in this area. NAP3 was widely criticised upon initial publication, continuing a trend evident since the process began. NAP2, for example, was found to only contain credible plans for five of 45 adaptation areas overall.

The new legal case follows record breaking temperatures this year, widespread flooding and recent decisions to renege on, or delay, climate policies, and is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK. The court has also been asked to consider if failing to protect lives within national planning breaches the human rights of the claimants. Meanwhile, it has been presented that the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, (Defra) has failed to lawfully assess the unequal impacts of NAP3 on groups protected under the Equality Act 2010, stipulated as ‘public sector equality duty’. 

‘Hemsby residents are among those bearing the brunt of the government’s lack of robust adaptation plans. They say responses to coastal erosion have been reactive and chaotic,’ said Jordan, one of the three claimants. ‘They receive no timely information about the state of the erosion or of the planned response measures.

‘The uncertainty is causing fear, anxiety and stress, and leaving people unable to make informed decisions about their future,’ he continued. ‘The Climate Change Committee has raised similar concerns. The current adaptation plan includes no strong commitment to provide sufficient resources and support to communities at risk of erosion and flooding.’

More on climate justice:

Modern slavery target of new solar supply chain procurement guide

Ethics and human rights could be banned from local authority decisions

Should ecocide be criminalised?

Image: Tingey Injury Law Firm


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