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High court rules the UK government’s climate strategy unlawful

In a landmark ruling, the High Court has deemed the UK government’s Net Zero Strategy as inadequate in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In a judgment published on Monday, the UK government must now outline how their climate targets will be achieved. 


After hosting COP26, the UK government’s Net Zero strategy set out policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet a net zero target by 2050. However, Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth, Good Law Project, and environmental campaigner Jo Wheatley, began a legal battle in June against the UK government for falling short of these promises.


Amid the Met Office’s red alert for record-breaking temperatures, the High Court ruled the Net zero strategy illegal under the Climate Change Act (CCA) 2008, a historic win for green campaigners.


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


“This landmark ruling is a huge victory for climate justice and government transparency. It shows that the Climate Change Act is a piece of legislation which has teeth, and can, if necessary, be enforced through our court system if the government does not comply with its legal duties.”


High Court Judge, Mr Justice Holgate states the strategy undermines public transparency by lacking explanations on how the targets will be met. For example, the strategy included commitments to carbon budgets but failed to include quantitative details on how the proposals and policies were expected to meet those targets. 


Mr Justice Holgate also found that Greg Hands, the energy and clean growth minister, approved of the strategy whilst not having the legally required information on how carbon budgets would be met.


The legal battle revealed the UK government knew the strategy would fall short of legally binding climate targets. The public and parliament were not informed of calculations that demonstrated targets to cut emissions would not be met.


Sam Hunter Jones, a senior lawyer at ClientEarth, said: 


“Its approach must also be realistic and based on what it actually expects its plans to achieve. The government must set out the emissions reductions expected from its individual policies so that the public and parliament can properly hold it to account. This is a huge win for climate justice and accountability.”


The UK government must update the Net Zero strategy to “increase the transparency of how the policies will support the plans”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s successor will have to sign off a revised strategy by 31 March 2023 to then be debated in parliament by MPs.


Edited by Abbie Vauls

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Tags: Climate change High Court Boris Johnson UK Politics


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