UK government’s Net Zero Strategy ruled unlawful
The high court has ruled that the government’s Net Zero Strategy is unlawful and will have to be revised to show how targets to reduce emissions will be met.
In a judgement published on 18 July, Mr Justice Holgate found that the strategy breached the government’s obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008 to produce detailed environmental policies that show how the UK’s carbon budgets will be achieved.
The Net Zero Strategy was announced by the government in 2021 and set out policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet net zero by 2050.
The ruling found that Greg Hands, minister for business, energy and industrial strategy, approved the policy despite not having the legally required information on how carbon budgets would be met. It also found that civil servants had miscalculated the impact of emission cuts of the sixth carbon budget by a 5% shortfall.
The legal challenges were brought by environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, environmental law charity ClientEarth, campaign group Good Law Project and environmentalist Jo Wheatley.
Katie de Kauwe, Friends of the Earth lawyer, said: “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.”
As a result of the ruling, the government will have to update its Net Zero Strategy to include a quantified account of how its policies will achieve climate targets, which are based on a realistic delivery.
Sam Hunter Jones, senior lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “The decision confirms that the government must show how its plans will deliver the carbon budget targets in full.
“Its approach must also be realistic and based on what it actually expects its plans to achieve.
“The government must set out the emissions reductions expected from its individual policies so that the public and parliament can properly hold it to account.”