Campaigners take government to court over “inadequate” climate strategy

The UK government is being sued by two environmental groups which say the net zero strategy fails to include policies needed to make promised cuts in carbon emissions.

Photo: DrillOrDrop

Friends of the Earth and Client Earth are filing separate lawsuits today challenging the lawfulness of the strategy.

They will argue that the document, released in October 2021, relied on speculative technology to deliver net zero emissions targets by 2050. It was also theoretical, they will say, because it was not supported by policy to show how emissions cuts would be achieved in each sector of the economy.

Both organisations will say the strategy does not comply with the Climate Change Act 2008, which requires ministers to set out policies to meet carbon budgets “as soon as reasonably practicable” after they have been set.

Rowan Smith, solicitor at Leigh Day, representing Friends of the Earth, said:

“Under the Climate Change Act 2008, the Secretary of State has a legal obligation to set out how the UK will actually meet carbon reduction targets.

“Friends of the Earth considers that the Net Zero Strategy lacks the vital information to give effect to that duty, and so any conclusion, that targets will be achieved on the basis of the policies put forward, is unlawful. Friends of the Earth is concerned that this places future generations at a particular disadvantage, because current mistakes are harder to rectify the closer we get to 2050. That is why this legal challenge is so important.”

Friends of the Earth is also taking action over the government’s heat and buildings strategy. The organisation said this did not consider the impact on legally protected groups under the Equality Act 2010.

Friends of the Earth previously found that people of colour are twice as likely to be living in fuel poverty as white people, while areas identified by the government as having a high number of residents with disabilities or other health needs are more likely to be rated in the worst category for fuel poverty.

Katie de Kauwe, lawyer at Friends of the Earth, said:

“We know that those who do least to cause climate breakdown are too often the hardest hit. Climate action must be based on reversing these inequalities, by designing the transition with the most vulnerable in mind. Not even considering the implications of the Heat and Building Strategy on groups such as older and disabled people, and people of colour and ethnic minorities is quite shocking, given these groups are disproportionately impacted by fuel poverty, for example.

“The bottom line is that the government’s vision for net zero doesn’t match the lacklustre policy that is supposed to make it possible. We are very concerned at the potential consequences of such a strategy for people in this country, and across the world, given the climate emergency. This is why we are taking this legal action today.”

Client Earth also claims that failure to meet legal carbon budgets would contravene the Human Rights Act by impact on the rights of young people to life and family life.

Sam Hunter Jones, a lawyer at Client Earth, told The Guardian

“A net zero strategy needs to include real-world policies that ensure it succeeds. Anything less is a breach of the government’s legal duties and amounts to greenwashing and climate delay. The government’s pie-in-the-sky approach pushes the risk onto young people and future generations who stand to be hit hardest by the climate crisis.”

The government’s adviser, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), said in October that the net zero strategy was a “big step forward”. But its assessment said:

“The government has not quantified the effect of each policy and proposal on emissions. So while the Government has proposed a set of ambitions that align well to the emissions targets, it is not clear how the mix of policies will deliver on those ambition

A government spokesperson said:

“The net zero strategy sets out specific, detailed measures we will take to transition to a low carbon economy, including helping businesses and consumers to move to clean and more secure, home-grown power, supporting hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs and leveraging up to £90bn of private investment by 2030.”

13 replies »

  1. Production of indigenous oil and gas would reduce carbon emissions over imported fuels.

    Unfortunately friends of the earth prefer to have the higher carbon emissions than supporting the UK through the transition and reducing carbon emissions.

    That seems like hypocracy to me.

    • That doesn’t work though MH since only 15% of UK produced primary oil is actually used in UK refineries, 85% is exported to refineries abroad. See;

      You may have been led to think that by the unscrupulous onshore oil and gas companies that spread these false arguments to hoodwink planners and investors. Be careful, many private investors have lost their life savings investing in these companies, be very weary of accepting their claims at face value.

      • No one hoodwinked, Dorkinian.

        Your unscrupulous attempt to distort has been tried before, and clarified before. You know it, I know it. I expect MH knows it.

        Life savings lost? Get real. The vast majority of investors in such UK on shore companies do so for a short term trading opportunity, or a longer term gamble, often funded by gains made elsewhere and those gains being partly risked in a high risk gamble.

        There is a greater amount of knowledge and common sense around then you might think.

  2. I did like the photo!

    One of my brothers has just had some solar panels installed. They have yet to produce anything significant, even though he lives near Plymouth, and he is now fighting the installers to repair the damage they have caused to his roof! Being an engineer, he is not impressed.

    A brave new world, or, buyers beware?

    • Martin, the UK’s 13.5GW of solar performed at less than 10% of their capacity factor during the height of last summer and less than 3% of capacity factor during the month with the highest electricity demand. Despite a significant increase in wind capacity during 2021, output from that source was also noticeably lower than the previous year. I think there’s going to be some interesting reading when the official figures are published in July.

  3. Maybe, Paul, and take into account how easy it will be to get compensation for damage during installation, or costs of cleaning them to maintain their proposed efficiency (young neighbours invested £15k to do the right thing, now find that efficiency drops alarmingly if they are not cleaned repeatedly, with cost of cleaning using up most of the value of the electricity generated.) Then, another neighbour who thought they were the answer to heating his rather large outdoor pool, so covered his stables in them, to find they managed 33p output value per day.

    But, I agree with your point about location. UK is not the right place unless we accept global warming, and then it might be in the future. Or, electricity becomes horrendously expensive.

    People should make their own decisions whether they invest or not, but for goodness sake do not allow someone else to invest for you. There are those that did, and find they can not sell their property any longer, because part of their property (the roof) is effectively owned by someone else.

    On wind, John, there are also some alarming forecasts around the decrease in wind speed expected across Europe in the future. (I did add them to DoD a while ago.) Not saying that will preclude turbines, but I would suggest it validates the UK approach to put them out to sea-as long as that can be done without adversely impacting bird populations, including migration routes. I have suggested for a long time that the structure that off shore turbines create ie. the defined “map” of an area of sea, should always include other facilities such as sea grass nurseries, sea weed farms, fish nurseries etc. The servicing of the turbines creates a local business to do so and that could easily be beefed up to cover the other operations, even including the control of interference from others within the area, so that any nurseries are protected.

    • Any contractor causing damage to property during absolutely any work should be liable for the cost or repair of that damage. If it’s a cowboy operator, that may be difficult, but it doesn’t alter the liability. Coming from anyone else, I’d be confused what that had to do specifically with solar panels. Strangely, the efficiency of my PV panels wasn’t much reduced, even when they got very green after several years of use. Even in northern latitudes known for relatively grim weather, they provided an excellent return on my investment and a decent amount of electicity.

      • Martin, I agree that offshore is the place for wind turbines but there needs to be more research on their impact upon bird migration routes, the impact of building wind farms on seabird feeding grounds and the possible effects from the vibration and low frequency noise transmitted into the sea and seabed. Blade design and construction also needs to be improved to prevent the current problem of micro plastic and Bisphenol A pollution from erosion of the leading edges.

        UK metered wind capacity increased from 25GW to 27.33GW during 2021. Electricity generated from them varied between 0.035GW and 14.28GW. We had an entire month (July) when they averaged 2.6GW output.

        The real test for renewable electricity generation will come very soon, when our last two coal fired stations have closed and we are also down to just one nuclear plant.

  4. Indeed Mike.

    In the real world, collecting from a contractor when the supplier passes the buck, can still proceed, but it may take a long while, may take a lot of money and may find the contractor has difficulty paying up, doing the work or just arguing the damage was there beforehand. With the supplier, having been paid, passing the buck.

    Glad that you have done better out of solar panels. I would just add our local solar farm now covers good agricultural land for a 99 year lease and no one bothered to inform the locals that once agricultural land has been industrialised in such a way, then it is the thin end of the wedge, and the housing estate on the next door piece of agricultural land has now been finished-all with gas central heating. And, the solar farm was built by a gang of imported labourers and the materials were also imported.

    The brave new world?

  5. It has been clear for a long time that investing in too much wind power will cause issues. This has been noted several times on DOD. We appear to be at that point now. With declining wind forecasts going forward, closure of coal powered generators and nuclear generators the situation will only get worse; if the % of installed wind capacity increases further at the expense of other forms of generation we will experience major grid issues. DRAX will (should) be next to go, biomass on the scale is hardly “green”. DRAX should have been converted to gas or stayed as coal until the back up for wind issue is resolved and new nuclear comes on line.

    The controversy of wood pellets as a green energy source:

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