Exterior of the high courts in London

Changes to Net Zero Strategy to come, as High Court ruling demands update

With the heatwave currently being experienced in the United Kingdom, it is easy to see how climate action is a crucial part of the policy for all levels of government, from parliament to devolved government and local councils. Net zero has become such an integral part of the work being undertaken by councils that a change to the strategy has the potential to cause issues for councillors.

In June, the Royal Courts of Justice saw three legal challenges to the government’s net zero strategy, with claims that it was a breach of climate law as it failed to show how targets to reduce the levels of carbon emissions with be met, as well as the fact that emission reduction targeting policies only made up for 95% of the reductions that will be required. The outcome released yesterday as “Friends of the Earth vs BEIS” found that the government’s net zero strategy does not meet their obligations under the Climate Change Act, with no grounds for an appeal.

The government has until the end of March 2023 to present the new strategy to parliament, whilst the ruling also outlines that the new plans should include policies that will be able to pass scrutiny by the Climate Change Committee.

Justice Holgate, the judge who saw the case, said:

“The NZS did not go below national and sector level to look at the contributions to emissions reductions made by individual policies (or by interacting policies) where assessed as being quantifiable. In my judgement it ought to have done so in order to comply with the language and statutory purposes of section 14 of the CCA 2008.”

ClientEarth, a charity focusing on protecting the planet, were part of a trio that took legal action against the government’s strategy. Sam Hunter Jones, senior lawyer for ClientEarth, said:

“This decision is a breakthrough moment in the fight against climate delay and inaction. It forces the government to put in place climate plans that will actually address the crisis.”

The ruling by Justice Holgate also found that energy minister Greg Hands had approved the strategy without not having the information on how budgets would be met in carbon, which is legally required.

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