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UK ministers in court again over net zero plans | Greenhouse gas emissions

UK ministers in court again over net zero plans | Greenhouse gas emissions
UK ministers in court again over net zero plans | Greenhouse gas emissions

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UK ministers are facing court for a second time over plans to meet legally binding climate targets, after environmental groups branded revised measures “a complete pipe dream”.

The government has already been forced to change its climate action plan after a legal challenge by environmentalists, but the same groups are taking it back to court over updated plans they say are “riddled with holes and relian[t] on risky techno-fixes”.

“We believe the government’s revised climate action plan is a complete pipe dream,” said Katie de Kauwe, a lawyer for Friends of the Earth. “It lacks critical information on the very real risks that its policies will fail to deliver the cuts needed to meet legally binding carbon reduction targets and relies too heavily on unproven technologies.

“The government ought to just come clean that this is a reckless, high-risk plan, and should come up with a credible and lawful strategy that ensures all our climate targets are met – including our international pledge to cut emissions two thirds by 2030.”

Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and the Good Law Project will make their case for a judicial review of the government’s carbon budget delivery plan in a “rolled-up hearing” at the high court in London on Tuesday.

They argue the plan, published in March 2023, fails to meet the criteria laid down by the Climate Change Act (CCA) 2008, which places a legal duty on the government to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The latest plan was drafted after judges in 2022 ordered the government to revise its strategy, after the same three organisations successfully argued it was in breach of the CCA.

Sam Hunter-Jones, a lawyer for ClientEarth, said: “The UK government continues to rely on pie-in-the-sky measures to address a crisis that needs real, immediate action – an approach the UK’s flagship law the Climate Change Act was designed to prevent.

“Instead of plugging the gaps identified by their own expert advisers, ministers are standing behind a strategy that is riddled with policy holes and reliance on risky techno-fixes.

“This approach flies in the face of key legal requirements and puts the UK well off track from meeting its legally binding commitments, which is why we’re back in court.”

Emma Dearnaley, legal director at the Good Law Project, said: “The government has admitted to us that, on its own assessments, its net zero plan is fraught with risks. Many of its flagship policies could fail to be achieved by the legally binding deadlines, yet ministers are stubbornly keeping vital information under lock and key to save embarrassment.

“With so much at stake for our planet and our economy, that needs to change. The sooner we can see what the risks are, the sooner the government will have to face up to the shortcomings in its net zero strategy and take action to fix them. So as soon as the risk tables are mentioned in court, we plan to publish them for all to see.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero defended the government’s record. “The UK is the first major economy to halve its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, while growing the economy by nearly 80%,” they said.

“The government has overdelivered on every carbon budget to date and we’re on track to meet our future targets, which are among the most ambitious in the world.

“While we cannot comment further on matters that are subject to live litigation, our long-term plans to deliver net zero in a pragmatic way will continue to lower energy bills, create jobs across the UK and reduce emissions.”

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