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Tory peer’s High Court intervention on climate plan challenge is damning

The former chair of the Climate Change Committee provided a witness statement in favour of a legal challenge against Downing Street’s ‘negligent’ environmental plan.

Lord Deben, a Conservative peer who had overseen the UK’s leading organisation monitoring and advising on the ecological crisis, told the court he believed the current government was guilty of breaching its own Climate Change Act. 

His statement was in support of an ongoing case brought by Friends of the Earth against the current Downing Street administration. This is one of three separated, but related, challenges to UK policy being considered by the High Court involving ClientEarth and Good Law Project.

Each alleges that the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (CBDP) is insufficiently detailed and risks the UK missing its legally-binding targets. The second draft of the blueprint followed a previous version which was changed after another High Court challenge highlighted serious issues and shortcomings with the proposed roadmap. 

According to Friends of the Earth, the main concern with the current CBDP is the assumption that ‘everything will go right’, and a lack of allowance for missed targets and unforeseen problems. This includes under-delivery, which has stalked the UK’s green transition for more than a decade now. Despite the apparent confidence on the part of policymakers, the legal challenge opened with a document produced by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which had not been shown to the Secretary of State, which suggested the body had ‘very low’ or ‘low’ confidence in almost 50% of the plan’s policies actually being delivered to schedule, or at all. 

‘The government is relying on everything going to plan with no delays or unforeseen circumstances, and on technologies which have either not been tested or indeed on which testing has not even started,’ Lord Deben told the court. ‘From what I have seen of the evidence provided to the court, the Secretary of State was not given enough detail on the level of risk associated with the policies in the plan. This meant that he could not see how many of them were likely to fail to achieve their end… I know of no other government policy which is premised on everything going exactly right.’

‘Lord Deben’s written statement is a damning indictment of the government’s latest climate strategy and its failure to properly consider the risk of its policies not achieving the emissions cuts needed to meet its climate targets,’ said Friends of the Earth Lawyer Katie de Kauwe. ‘It’s a sorry state of affairs that the government departed from established ways of working to deny its own expert statutory advisors, the Climate Change Committee, the opportunity to view and offer comments on its draft climate plan before it was finalised and published. From an accountability perspective, it’s interesting that this has happened in the context of a plan which is so manifestly weak.’

More on climate change: 

UK environmental activism crackdown raises alarm for human rights and democracy

Climate negligence and economic decline define the UK, political reform is needed

Empowering environmental action and activism through web intelligence

Image: Royal Courts of Justice 


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