High Court deems Government’s Net-Zero Strategy unlawful

In a landmark ruling the High Court has ordered that the UK Government’s Net-Zero Strategy is “unlawful”, with an order now in place for policymakers to flesh out the Strategy with new details.

High Court deems Government’s Net-Zero Strategy unlawful

The Government’s landmark Net-Zero Strategy, first published last October in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow, has been ruled as inadequate and unlawful by the High Court, following a successful legal challenge brought by Good Law Project, Joanna Wheatley, Client Earth and Friends of the Earth.

In a judgment published on Monday (18 July), the High Court ruled that the Strategy is too vague, meaning that there were no assurances that targets listed under the Strategy, which aims to decarbonise the UK economy to net-zero by 2050, could be met.

The Court has ordered that the existing Strategy be fleshed out and amended within the next eight months. The Government has also been ordered to cover the costs of the charities that lodged the legal challenge.

The three environmental campaign groups – Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project – mounted separate legal challenges to the Strategy in January.

The crux of their argument is that the Strategy, first published last October in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow, does not detail sufficient measures for delivering the legally binding emissions targets that the UK Government is committed to. As such, it may be in breach of the Climate Change Act, which was first set in 2008 and was updated in 2019 as the Conservative government enshrined the 2050 net-zero target in law.

The Strategy notably contains no time-bound, sector-specific emissions reduction targets, as many experts had hoped it would. Concerns also persist that delivery on the ground has faced a string of challenges since 2019, including the pandemic, which has hampered the ability of local authorities and businesses to roll out low-carbon programmes.

“The dangerous heatwave this week is a stark reminder of the very real threat we face. Our infrastructure and homes were designed for a climate that no longer exists. This cannot wait. The Net Zero target must be a road map to a sustainable future – not a lie we tell our children,” The Good Law Project said in a statement.

“We are thrilled to have worked alongside our friends at Client Earth and Friends of the Earth to deliver this landmark victory.”

Comments (2)

  1. David Dundas says:

    What is urgently needed is a plan for the UK Government to implement the necessary measures to stop net FOSSIL carbon emissions by 2050. (Non fossil carbon emissions will continue as part of the short term carbon cycle). It would be helpful if the Government also developed a plan to help other nations do the same, for example the export of small modular reactors to decarbonise the many coal fired power statios in third world countries.

  2. Richard Phillips says:

    It is a great hindrance to HMG that, in general. politicians do not possess any strong scientific or technical background. Just a fact of life, but singularly unaddressed.
    I have found MPs are very interested in energy matters, once the explanations are forthcoming, but there is a big disconnect here.
    There is quite a gap between PPE and nuclear energy ( my own old field!!).
    Richard Phillips

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