ClientEarth released a report earlier today (12 October) stating that the pioneering Act has in practice been “dangerously neglected” in recent years, while the machinery that makes the law work across Government has gradually “fallen by the wayside”.

The incumbent Government must close the “policy gap” made by successive regimes for the UK to meet the Fourth Carbon Budget (2023-27), the report suggests, by publishing an ambitious new Carbon Plan by the end of 2016.

ClientEarth lawyer Jonathan Church said: “A policy and reporting reset is essential if we are to hit emissions targets. We can’t afford to drift for the next five years – as we have done for the last five years – without proper climate policies and progress. 

“With its new Carbon Plan, the Government has the chance to make the Act a living law and put the UK on the path to a clean, green energy future. We hope that by highlighting what we think is a breach of the law, it will focus the minds of Government”.

‘Not just wallpaper’

ClientEarth states that the Government has failed to correct its course after admitting five years ago that its policies would miss emissions targets by 187Mt CO2. The 2011 Carbon Plan is being increasingly ignored, the report claims, and there has been no reporting on climate policy milestones since 2012, despite government promises.

The firm is calling for the upcoming Carbon Plan to detail and clarify policies that will deliver the necessary emissions reductions. The Government are urged to provide “active and transparent” carbon budget management, in addition to regularly updated policy milestones.

Church added: “Government lauds the Climate Change Act in public, but its actions don’t match its words. Successive governments have failed to account for how their decisions are impacting carbon emissions, with major climate decisions being made without mention of carbon targets or how the UK will get back on track to meet them. 

“Our carbon budgets are not just wallpaper – they must inform policy decisions across Government today, tomorrow and in the future.”


The Government provided a much-needed confidence boost for the green economy by approving the Fifth Carbon Budget in June, taking heed of ambitious proposals from MPs to limit the annual emissions to 57% below 1990 levels by the year 2032.

Many commentators stress that this strong ambition must now be maintained and strengthened with a long-term strategy to delivering a clean and affordable energy supply for Britain, to be set out in the upcoming Carbon Plan.

Meeting emissions targets set out in the first four carbon budgets has been projected to add 1.1% to GDP, and hitting UK climate targets could reportedly save around £100bn compared with delaying action beyond 2020.

Responding to the ClientEarth report, a BEIS spokesperson said: “Government is meeting the requirements under the Climate Change Act and our world leading carbon reduction targets are proof of our continued commitment to tackling climate change.

“The emissions reduction plan will set out how we are going to meet our targets in the 2020s. The UK is a world leader in tackling climate change and one of the first acts of this government was to pass the Fifth Carbon Budget. We will also ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of the year.”

George Ogeby

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