High Court Declares Britain’s Climate Action Plan Illegal

High Court Declares Britain's Climate Action Plan Illegal
credit: reuters

London (Parliament News) – The High Court rules the British government’s climate action strategy unlawful, citing inadequate evidence to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

British government’s climate action strategy is unlawful, the high court has ruled, as there is not sufficient evidence that there are adequate policies in place to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The energy secretary, Claire Coutinho, will now be anticipated to draw up a repair plan within 12 months. This must ensure that the UK achieves its legally binding carbon budgets and its commitment to cut emissions by more than two-thirds by 2030, both of which the country is off track to satisfy.

Who Took Legal Action Against the UK Government?

According to the Guardian, the environmental charities Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth took mutual legal action with the Good Law Project against the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) over its conclusion to approve the carbon budget delivery project (CBDP) in March 2023.

What Did the High Court Rule Regarding UK’s Climate Plan?

In a ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Sheldon supported four of the five grounds of the groups’ legal challenge, noting that the decision by the former energy security and net zero secretary Grant Shapps was “simply not explained by the evidence”.

He stated: “If, as I have found, the secretary of state did make his decision on the assumption that each of the proposals and policies would be delivered in full, then the secretary of state’s decision was taken based on a mistaken understanding of the true factual position.”

Why Was the Climate Action Strategy Deemed Unlawful?

The judge consented with ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth that the secretary of state was given “incomplete” information regarding the likelihood that proposed guidelines would achieve their intended emissions cuts. This violated section 13 of the Climate Change Act, which requires the secretary of state to assume plans and proposals that they consider will allow upcoming carbon budgets to be delivered.

Judge Sheldon also agreed with the environment activists that the central assumption that all the department’s policies would acquire 100% of their intended emissions cuts was incorrect. The judge expressed the secretary of state had acted irrationally and based on an incorrect understanding of the facts. This comes after the Guardian disclosed the government would be allowing oil and gas drilling under offshore wind turbines, a decision condemned by climate experts as “deeply irresponsible”.

The CBDP summarises how the UK will achieve targets set out in the sixth carbon budget, which drives until 2037, as part of wider measures to reach net zero by 2050. Those emissions targets were formed after a 2022 ruling that Britain had breached legislation developed to help reach the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of containing temperatures within 1.5C (2.7F) of pre-industrial levels. The Climate Change Committee’s examination last year was that the government only had credible procedures in place for less than 20% of the emissions cuts required to meet the sixth carbon budget.

What Did Lawyers of Environment Organizations Say on Ruling?

The lawyer for Friends of the Earth, Katie de Kauwe, stated: “This is another embarrassing defeat for the government and its irresponsible and inadequate climate plans. We’ve all been poorly let down by a government that’s failed, not once but twice, to deliver a climate strategy that ensures both our legally binding national targets and our international obligation to cut emissions by more than two-thirds by 2030 are met.

“We urgently need a reasonable and lawful new action strategy that puts our climate goals back on track and ensures we all benefit from a fair growth to a sustainable future. Meeting our domestic and international carbon removal targets must be a top priority for whichever party wins the next general election.”

How did the Shadow Energy Secretary Reacted? 

Ed Miliband, the shadow energy secretary, stated: “This is a new low even for this clown display of a government that has totally failed on energy and climate for 14 years. Their project has now been found unlawful twice – once might have been overlooked as carelessness, twice shows they are incapable of delivering for this country.

“The British people are paying the price for their failure in higher bills, revealed to the dictators like [Vladimir] Putin who control fossil fuel markets. Only Labour can contain the climate crisis in a way that cuts bills for families, makes Britain energy independent, and tackles the climate crisis.”

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.