Three campaign organisations are taking the government to court today over its net zero strategy.
Their cases are to be considered at the same hearing at the High Court in London.
The government said its net zero strategy, published in October 2021, set out policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet the net zero target by 2050.
But the three organisations will argue at a two-day judicial review hearing that the plans are “inadequate and unlawful”.
They will say the government has failed in its legal obligations under the Climate Change Act to produce policies that will ensure the UK meets its legally-binding carbon budgets.
The organisations will argue that the strategy does not give enough information on what effect the policies will have on reducing emissions or the timescale in which this will happen.
This means it is not possible to know how what impact the strategy will have on meeting climate targets or hold the government to account, they will say.
If the case succeeds, it could become a landmark that results in the strategy being strengthened.
Friends of the Earth lawyer, Katie de Kauwe, said:
“We maintain that the government’s Net Zero Strategy is flawed, inadequate and unlawful. It doesn’t say what emissions reductions its policies will achieve or when they will happen.
“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.
“With a worsening climate crisis that’s increasingly being felt across the world, such as the deadly heatwave which hit India and Pakistan last month, urgent and decisive action is needed.
“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.”
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.”
Jo Maugham, director of Good Law Project, said:
“For the strategy to have meaning it must be specific and quantified, otherwise it’s just hand-waving. The government talks a good game, but it hasn’t actually set out how we will get to Net Zero. When you judge it by its actions what you see is further investment through the tax system in fossil fuels.
“As energy bills soar, government must instead invest in green alternatives. We have the chance to transform our future – but we need to face up to the scale of the crisis.”
The climate activist, Jo Wheatley, who is working with the Good Law Project, said she wanted the UK’s strategy to treat the climate and biodiversity “like the emergency it is, with measurable, realistic actions that set us on the right path”. She said:
“I want my grandchildren to have a liveable future; one they can thrive and be happy in… I’m terrified that we’re wasting the opportunity to wake up from sleepwalking into disaster.”
The government’s adviser, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), said in 2021 that the net zero strategy was a “big step forward”. But it said the government has not “quantified the effect of each policy and proposal on emissions” and it was “not clear how the mix of policies will deliver on those ambitions”.
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.”
- Friends of the Earth has already succeeded on one of the grounds of its legal challenge. The organisation maintained that the government had not properly considered the impact of its heat and buildings strategy on the protected groups of older people, disabled people and people of colour. In March 2022, the government conceded that it had not done an equality impact assessment (EIA) and said it was now carrying one out.
DrillOrDrop will be reporting from the High Court. This work has been made possible by donations from individual readers.