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Government forced to redraw ‘unlawful’ Net Zero Strategy by High Court

In a landmark ruling the High Court found the government’s Net Zero Strategy to be unlawful and will force the government to revise the bill.

Several environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project, brought the legal challenge after highlighting the strategy’s lack of legally-binding targets. 

Mr Justice Holgate found the current Net Zero Strategy breaches the Climate Change Act, as the policies aren’t detailed enough and is not subject to legally-binding carbon budgets. 

The government is now required to update the plans to decarbonise the economy and will be forced to include full details, based on a realistic assessment, of how it will fulfil climate targets.

Friends of the Earth lawyer, Katie de Kauwe, said: ‘We’re proud to have worked on this historic case. Taking strong action to cut carbon emissions is a win-win. Not only is it essential to preventing climate breakdown, but we can also tackle the cost of living crisis with cheap, renewable energy. 

‘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.’

Campaigners were heard in the Royal Courts of Justice last month before it was ruled that parliament and the public had been left in the dark about a shortfall in meeting key targets to cut emissions. 

Civil servant calculations of carbon emission reductions were found to be inaccurate, with a 5% shortfall over the amount of greenhouse gases the UK can emit during 2033-37, the equivalent of 75 million tonnes of CO2e. 

Justice Holgate decided Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Hands, who signed off the strategy, did not have all the legally required information to do so. 

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has previously found that credible plans only stand for just two-fifths of the government’s required emission reductions. 

Updated plans will need to be presented in parliament and be scrutinised by the CCC which the judge said could offer advice of a ‘considerable weight.’ 

Jolyon Maugham, Director of Good Law Project, said: ‘The illegality of its flagship climate change strategy is a huge political embarrassment to the Government. The Net Zero target must be a road map to a sustainable future – not a lie we tell our children. 

‘We are thrilled to have worked alongside our friends at ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth to deliver this landmark victory.’ 

Photo by Francais a Londres

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