The Government’s Net-Zero Strategy, first published last October in the approach to COP26 in Glasgow has been ruled by the High Court as inadequate and unlawful, following a successful legal challenge brought forwards by several environmental campaign groups including Good Law Project, Joanna Wheatley, Client Earth and Friends of the Earth.
In a judgment published at the start of this week (18th July), the High Court determined that the Net-Zero Strategy is too vague, as it doesn’t make any explicit claims or assurances that the targets outlined in the Strategy, aiming to decarbonise the UK economy to net-zero by 2050, could be met.
The Court ordered that the current Strategy needs to be elaborated on and amended within the next eight months, with the Government ordered to cover the costs of the charities that brought forward the legal challenge.
The three charities, Friends of the Earth, Client Earth and Good Law Project, each lodged their own legal challenges to the Strategy back in January 2022.
Their fundamental argument is that the Strategy, first published last October in the approach to COP26 in Glasgow, does not elaborate sufficient measures for establishing the legally binding emissions targets that the UK Government is committed to.
As a result, the Strategy may be in breach of the Climate Change Act, which was first established in 2008 and was updated in 2019 with the government placing the 2050 net-zero target into law.
Most notably, the Strategy does not contain any sector-specific emissions reduction targets, or any indications on a time scale with which the policies outlined will take to see in action, which many experts had hoped for.
Delivery on the ground has faced a series of challenges since 2019, as the pandemic, in particular, has hampered the ability of local authorities and businesses to implement low-carbon and carbon-reducing programmes.
Certainly the UK is seeing the impact of high carbon levels in our economy, as the population experiences staggering heatwaves this week.
The Good Law Project said in a statement that “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”.
“We are thrilled to have worked alongside our friends at Client Earth and Friends of the Earth to deliver this landmark victory”.