‘Feeble and inadequate’: Government taken to court again over net-zero plans

The Government is being taken to court for the second time in less than two years over its climate strategies, with green groups labelling the updated Net-Zero Growth Plan a “feeble and inadequate” measure to respond to the climate crisis.

‘Feeble and inadequate’: Government taken to court again over net-zero plans

MPs are more aware of the climate crisis than they were five years ago

Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project have announced their intentions to take the UK Government to court over what they believe is an inadequate plan to tackle the climate crisis.

The green groups argue that the Net-Zero Growth Plan and Carbon Budget Delivery Plan published in March this year fail to assess the risks of inaction if the nation is unable to meet its legally binding targets.

The court appeal also states that information listed in both plans does not outline how nascent technologies that are heavily relied on in the plan – such as hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and low-carbon aviation fuel – will be supported or scaled up. The green groups argue these technologies are “high risk”.

ClientEarth also argues that this approach is “unlawful” and fails to comply with central provisions of the Climate Change Act.

ClientEarth’s chief executive Laura Clarke, said: “The government’s new plan to reduce emissions is not fit for purpose. It relies heavily on unproven and high-risk technological fixes at the expense of near-term action – yet the government ‘assumes’ that it will be delivered in full, despite these stark risks.

“People in the UK and globally need to see the UK take urgent, decisive climate action. But instead, we see hesitation and delay from the government and are almost certain to miss emissions reduction targets. As the CCC has again reiterated, real action on emissions can happen with ‘no regrets’ policies that will also help struggling households. Measures such as making homes more energy efficient and investing in active and public transport can both reduce emissions and increase energy security for the benefit of present and future generations.”

The court announcement comes just days after the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC’s) 2023 progress report revealed that not one sector is on course to meet net-zero.

The Net-Zero Growth Plan acts as the Government’s official response to the Independent Review on the Net-Zero Strategy, which was led by Chris Skidmore. That Review detailed 129 recommendations across key sectors such as the built environment, renewable energy, green finance and nature.

The new document also fulfills a statutory obligation to respond to the CCC’s 2022 Progress Report to Parliament; and details a carbon budget delivery update. The Government also claims the 126-page report will outline what steps will be introduced to “strengthen the delivery” of the UK’s net-zero goal.

With the original Net-Zero Strategy deemed unlawful by the High Court, the new document attempts to incorporate the recommendations proposed by the CCC and the Skidmore Review. The UK Government believes this will “turbocharge delivery” of the Net-Zero Strategy.

However, Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project have confirmed that they are taking the Government to court over the updated strategy.

After studying the detail of the revised Carbon Budget Delivery Plan, the groups say that it also breaches the Climate Change Act. Indeed, the Plan outlines that quantified proposals and policies will only meet 97% of the savings required to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget, and only 92% of its international commitments to the Paris Agreement for 2030.

Friends of the Earth lawyer, Katie de Kauwe, said: “Despite having nine months to come up with a lawful strategy, we believe this revised action plan still falls far short of the government’s legal obligations under the Climate Change Act. We said we’d take the government to court again if we believed that they’d failed to honour their climate commitments – and this is exactly what we are now doing.

“The climate crisis is already battering Britain and the world with record heatwaves, droughts and storms, and unless politicians take the action needed to slash emissions these impacts will become more severe and more frequent. The good news is that building a green economy won’t just slash emissions; it will also create new jobs, boost energy security and help tackle the soaring cost-of-living.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie