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UK Government's Net-Zero Strategy found 'unlawful' by High Court

Tue 19 Jul 2022 | 12:11 pm GMT
Rob Hutchins | Products of Change Writer

ClientEarth lawyers Sam Hunter-Jones and Sophie Marjanac outside the High Court on the first day of the hearing

The UK government has been ordered to ‘flesh-out’ its Net Zero Strategy by judges at the High Court this week in an unprecedented ruling that found the strategy in its current state both inadequate and unlawful. The Government’s Net Zero strategy was first published last October in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow when it was billed by its policymakers as a ‘land-mark strategy’ to bring the UK to Net Zero by 2050. However, a successful challenge brought to the UK government by Good Law Project, Joanna Wheatley, Client Earth, and Friends of the Earth has found the strategy to be ‘too vague’ with no assurances that targets listed under the strategy could be met. The Court has ordered that the existing Strategy be fleshed out and amended within the next eight months. The Government has also been ordered to cover the costs of the charities that lodged the legal challenge. The three groups – Friends of the Earth, Client Earth, and Good Law Project – argued that the strategy does not detail sufficient measures for delivering the legally binding emissions targets that the UK government is committed to. Without such measures, the strategy was in breach of the Climate Change Act which was first set in 2008 and updated in 2019 by a Conservative government who enshrined the 2050 Net Zero target into law. Friends of the Earth reports that the strategy also notably has no time-bound, sector specific emissions reduction targets. In a statement delivered to the press, The Good Law Project, said: “The dangerous heatwave this week is a stark reminder of the very real threat we face. Our infrastructure and homes were designed for a climate that no longer exists. This cannot wait. The Net Zero target must be a road map to a sustainable future – not a lie we tell our children. “We are thrilled to have worked alongside our friends at Client Earth and friends of the Earth to deliver this landmark victory.” The refreshed plan should include sound policies that will stand up to the scrutiny of the Climate change Committee, which recently found out that credible plans exist for just two fifths of the government’s required emissions reductions. Friends of the Earth lawyer, Katie de Kauwe, said: “We’re proud to have worked on this historic case. Taking strong action to cut carbon emissions is a win-win. Not only is it essential to preventing climate breakdown, but we can also tackle the cost of living crisis with cheap, renewable energy. “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. “More than a decade ago, Friends of the Earth spearheaded the grassroots campaign that led to this vital piece of legislation. Today, we have strengthened its enforcement, which is so crucial to our country’s ability to tackle the climate crisis.”
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