ClientEarth challenges Government to publish delayed emissions strategy

Environmental law firm ClientEarth has written to climate minister Nick Hurd, challenging him to outline timeframes for the delayed emissions reduction plan and launch a consultation to engage with businesses on the matter.

ClientEarth penned a letter, sent last week, to Climate Change Minister Nick Hurd, highlighting concerns that the publication of the emissions reduction plan – since renamed as the Clean Growth Plan – has been incrementally delayed.

Specifically, the letter calls on Hurd to provide a revised publication date on both the plan and the accompanying consultation, which would allow businesses to comment on the recommendations. ClientEarth are seeking a response to the letter within 21 days.

“Government is long overdue to bring forward an ambitious plan that will close the persistent and unlawful gap between legally binding carbon budgets and current plans and policies,” ClientEarth’s chief executive James Thornton said. “This will drive investment and deliver the UK’s climate change commitments. The plan was due in 2016. Businesses need certainty, investors need to know where to put their money, and people need to be protected from climate change.”

“We want to work with the government on a strong, effective emissions reduction plan, but all we get is never-ending delays. Government must publish the plan, and must consult with industry and civil society. If it continues to kick this can down the road, we will have no option but to consider legal action.”

The Government’s timeframe for the publication of the Clean Growth Plan has evolved from December 2016, to February 2017, to the first quarter of 2017. The latest hint provided by the Government suggests the plan will be published “as early on in 2017 as possible”.

The letter calls on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to “take advantage of the expertise and support of business” by launching a consultation on the plan, but warned that a failure to produce the plan soon would put the UK on track to fail long-term climate targets under the Climate Change Act.

After the fifth carbon budget was approved last year, the Act was amended to require the Secretary of State to publish the plan “as soon as is reasonably practicable”. ClientEarth is seeking clarity on how the Government will abide by this.

Hurd, who last week suggested that the political will to deliver on the Paris Agreement needed support from the business community, has been encouraged by ClientEarth to engage with the private sector on the plan. 

ClientEarth has locked horns with Government departments in the past. It won its High Court case over the failure of ministers to tackle illegal air quality levels across the country in November last year.

Calls to action

Earlier this week, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) urged BEIS to provide a “detailed policy framework” that would encourage investors to mobilise the necessary long-term capital – described by IIGCC as “hundreds of billions” – to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement in the UK.

The letter was sent as an array of sustainability and environmental experts told edie the Government must “stop dithering” and publish its long-awaited 25-Year Environment Plan.

The plan was initially due to be released last year. This week, the BBC reported it had obtained a draft version of the strategy, which maps out various pledges to improve specific areas of the environment including water, air quality, resource efficiency and the low-carbon economy. 

Matt Mace

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