UK climate action plan inadequate and unlawful, campaign groups tell court

LONDON – Britain’s new climate action plan is unlawful because ministers were given misleading information about the prospects of meeting legally-binding emissions targets, three environmental campaign groups told London’s High Court on Feb 20.

Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and the Good Law Project are taking legal action over carbon budgets set by the government to meet Britain’s target of net-zero by 2050.

The case comes amid concerns that Britain has lost its position as a global leader on climate action and as environmental groups around the world step up legal challenges to press governments and corporations to do more to tackle climate change.

A similar case was brought by the three groups in 2022, after which the High Court ruled that Britain had breached legislation designed to help reach the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of containing temperatures within 1.5 deg C of pre-industrial levels.

The British government had to revise its plans, which were signed off last year. But the groups say the new plan is also unlawful because then energy minister Grant Shapps was not told of the risk that policies to reduce emissions could not be delivered.

Friends of the Earth’s lawyer, Mr David Wolfe, said Britain’s Climate Change Committee warned last year there were credible policies in place for less than 20 per cent of the reductions required to meet the carbon budget for the period 2033-2037.

He added in court filings that Mr Shapps “proceeded on the assumption that the reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases from all of the proposals and policies… would all be delivered in full when there was no evidential basis”.

Lawyers representing the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, however, said Mr Shapps did not assume emission reductions would be delivered in full.

Mr Jonathan Moffett also said in court filings that Mr Shapps’ decision required “an evaluative, predictive judgment as to what may transpire up to 14 years into the future”, which was a matter for elected politicians rather the courts. REUTERS


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