The UK government is being sued because of its net zero climate strategy, which lawyers claim is illegally failing to include the necessary policies to deliver the promised cuts in emissions.
Legal papers were filed Wednesday by ClientEarth (CE) and separately by Friends of the Earth (FoE). CE also claims that non-compliance with legal CO2 budgets would be in breach of the Human Rights Act by affecting young people’s right to life and family life.
The Net Zero Strategy was announced in October and included commitments to stop sales of new fossil fuel cars in 2030 and gas boilers in 2035. However, it did not specify how the strategy would be delivered, or specified the reductions in emissions to be achieved in each sector. Instead, the lawyers said, it relied on speculative technologies such as carbon-free aviation fuels and the extraction of carbon dioxide directly from the air and its burial.
ClientEarth has defeated the government three times in court in recent years due to inadequate air pollution policies, while Friends of the Earth’s court victories include a lawsuit over the cost of raising environmental claims against ministers.
Both the CE and the FoE argue that the Climate Change Act requires ministers to set policies to meet carbon budgets “as soon as practicable” once they have been established. The assessment included in the net-zero strategy shows that UK emissions are twice as high as allowed in 2035 and also lack targets in 2025 and 2030.
“A net zero strategy must include real-world policies that ensure its success,” said attorney Sam Hunter Jones at CE. “Everything less is a violation of the government’s legal obligations and corresponds to greenwashing and climate delays. “The government’s pie-in-the-sky approach is shifting the risk onto young people and future generations, who are hit hardest by the climate crisis.”
The FoE action also claims that another government strategy, on heating and buildings, failed to assess its impact on legally protected groups, including children, the colored and the disabled. The FoE previously found that colored people were twice as likely to live in fuel poverty as whites.
“We know that those who do the least to cause climate collapse are all too often hardest hit,” said Katie de Kauwe, an FoE lawyer. 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 heating and construction strategy for such groups is quite shocking. “
The government’s official advisers, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), said in October that the net zero strategy was a “major step forward” and the most comprehensive among the G20 countries. But its assessment said: “The government has not quantified the impact of each policy and proposal on emissions. So … it is not clear how the mix of policies will fulfill its ambitions.”
The CCC highlighted a lack of policies on energy efficiency in housing following a flawed subsidy scheme for green housing, on agriculture and on reducing the amount of meat and dairy products people eat and the number of flights. “It’s a very market-driven strategy,” said CCC CEO Chris Stark. “We have to see how it goes.”
“While the government should, of course, invest and encourage innovation, the early solutions in the strategy cannot compensate for the lack of credible action in the short term,” Hunter Jones said.
He added: “Energy bills are currently soaring, partly due to Britain’s excessive reliance on fossil gas for heating and poor levels of insulation. The government’s inability to deliver real climate action results in higher bills for people.”
After the submission of the allegations and the submission of the government’s defense, the High Court will decide whether to give full consideration of the cases.
A government spokesman said: “The Net Zero Strategy sets out specific, detailed measures we will take to adapt to a low-emission economy, including helping businesses and consumers switch to clean and more secure, home-grown power that supports hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs and the exploitation of up to £ 90 billion of private investment by 2030. “