Government threatened with legal action over coronavirus recovery package

The UK Government is facing another court challenge over climate-wrecking policy decisions, with UK-based Plan B threatening legal action over the recent coronavirus recovery package, calling it a "new deal for polluters".

Government threatened with legal action over coronavirus recovery package

Plan B argues the funding set aside for a green recovery is less than what has been issued to climate-wrecking projects and industries

Plan B has sent a Letter before Action to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, chancellor Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Governor of the Bank of England Andre Bailey. The letter warns of an imminent issue of a court claim on climate change grounds.

The group is threatening legal action over a perceived “new deal for polluters”, based on the £3bn package to stimulate the UK’s green economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Plan B argues that the monetary value of the package is less than the finance that the Bank of England is providing to airlines and carmakers as a response to the pandemic, which notably isn’t tied to environmental performance.

The £1bn commitment to decarbonise public sector buildings and social housing announced as part of the green recovery package has also been criticised. Plan B claims it is the same sum of money that the Government has committed to a gas pipeline in Mozambique. The £100bn HS2 project has also been criticised, despite the Government’s beliefs that the infrastructure project can align to its net-zero emissions target.

“Treating the climate emergency as a ‘competing priority’ to Covid recovery is a catastrophic error, which must be quickly corrected to avoid tragic consequences,” the letter states. “To continue on that path would be a treasonous betrayal of this country’s democracy and its young people. We urge you to listen to the scientific and economic advice which makes that clear beyond doubt.”

Plan B has given the Government and the Bank of England until 17 July to respond by confirming how the spending will be remedied to align with the net-zero commitment, the Paris Agreement and the Human Rights Act to safeguard the public.

The Bank of England’s involvement comes after Bailey approved lending to corporates in response to the pandemic. At the start of the month, Baily confirmed that lending “has not incorporated a test based on climate considerations”.

Net-zero contrast

The warning is the latest in a line of legal complaints over Government decisions that go against climate policies.

The UK Government will not appeal a court decision to block the development of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, which was issued in response to climate change concerns and national targets aligned to the Paris Agreement.

The UK Government had been taken to court by a coalition of Greenpeace, the mayor of London and local councils over the anticipated increase in noise and pollution that the third runway would introduce. Friends of the Earth also filed a claim against the expansion, based on a perceived failure to consider climate change as part of national sustainable development.

The BBC has reported that a £28.8bn new roads programme could be challenged in the courts after it learnt that proposals don’t take emissions reduction commitments into account.

As a result, some authorities are now having to make big decisions on major projects. A scheme to expand Bristol airport has been rejected following protests that it would exacerbate the climate emergency, while the Welsh government has binned plans for a new road system around Newport on similar grounds.

Matt Mace

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