UK government’s ‘inadequate’ net-zero strategy faces scrutiny in court hearing
Non-profit Client Earth’s lawsuit alleges policies fail to reduce emissions enough to meet legally binding carbon budgets, amounting to greenwashing.
A court hearing has revealed that the UK government’s net-zero strategy plans only add up to around 95% of the reductions required to meet the sixth carbon budget.
The UK government was taken to court in June by a non-profit organisation over its “inadequate” net-zero strategy, which sets out how the UK will reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
The legal action, which was brought by ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the Good Law Project, claims the government’s strategy fails to reduce emissions enough to meet legally binding carbon budgets, placing it in breach of its duties under the Climate Change Act.
According to ClientEarth, the data showing whether the government’s climate plans will achieve the necessary emissions targets came to light during the hearing on 8-9 June, having previously been omitted from its strategy.
Sophie Marjanac, a lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “We’re surprised with the extent of critical information revealed in court, when it should have been available to the public from the outset.”
“It’s not enough for the UK government simply to have a net-zero strategy, it needs to include real-world policies that ensure it succeeds. Anything less is a breach of its legal duties and amounts to greenwashing and climate delay,” added Sam Hunter-Jones, another ClientEarth lawyer.
The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed in October 2021 how the UK plans to meet its net-zero commitments, which aim to “unlock” up to £100bn of private investment by 2030, and support 440,000 jobs in green industries in the same year.
A BEIS spokesperson told Net Zero Investor: “We cannot comment on ongoing legal proceedings. However, we maintain that our net-zero strategy complies with our legal obligations, has been endorsed by the Independent Committee on Climate Change, and builds on the UK’s proven track record of decarbonising faster than any other G7 country.”
At the time, the UK Government pledged “an extra £350m of its up to £1bn commitment to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains and another £620m for targeted electric vehicle grants and infrastructure”.
However, on 14 June, the Department for Transport announced it is closing the plug-in car grant scheme to new orders, with the remaining funding to be focused on “the main barriers to the EV transition”, including public charging and supporting the purchase of other road vehicles where the switch to electric “requires further development”.
Back in March, ClientEarth began legal action against the board of directors of Shell, alleging that its failure to implement a climate strategy aligned with the Paris Agreement puts it in breach of duties under Company Law.