Environmental Activists Sue Government Over Changes To Climate Change Strategy

Experts warned that the Tories’ legally binding carbon targets could face legal challenges as the government tries to achieve Net Zero in a “pragmatic way.”
Environmental Activists Sue Government Over Changes To Climate Change Strategy
In an undated file photo activists unfurl a giant banner on Lambeth Bridge as they block it in protest over fossil fuel use, in London. (Yui Mok/PA)
Owen Evans

Environmental activists have taken the government to court over changes to its climate change decarbonisation plans.

On Tuesday, Friends of the Earth, Good Law Project and ClientEarth announced that they were taking the government to court, for the second time, over allegations that it breached its climate change plans.

Friends of the Earth said it believes that “once again, the new climate plan is both inadequate and unlawful.”

They say they believe the plan is “unlawful” because it “is a breach of section 14 of the Climate Change Act 2008, which requires the Secretary of State to publish sufficient information to allow meaningful scrutiny of the government’s net zero policies.”

The hearing will take place from today until Thursday at the High Court in the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

In September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak softened on net zero targets, announcing that the sale of new fossil fuel cars will not be phased out in 2030 but in 2035 and that only 80 percent of gas boilers will need to be phased out by that date instead of 100 percent.

At the time, he said that “it cannot be right for Westminster to impose such significant costs on working people, especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet and to interfere so much in people’s way of life without a properly informed national debate.”

The UK is one of the very few countries to tie net zero objectives into law with a statutory obligation.

“We hope that the court will endorse our legal arguments and find that the government has again acted unlawfully, so that they have to produce a plan that does enable the urgent emissions cuts required,” wrote Friends of the Earth.

“By taking this second case, we are holding the government’s feet to the fire. We are showing them, and whatever government is in place after the General Election, that compliance with the CCA (Climate Change Act) is not something that is optional, or something for which they can be let off the hook,” it added.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokeswoman told The Epoch Times by email: “While we cannot comment further on matters that are subject to live litigation, our long-term plans to deliver Net Zero in a pragmatic way will continue to lower energy bills, create jobs across the UK and reduce emissions.”

“The UK is the first major economy to halve its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, while growing the economy by nearly 80 percent,” she said.

She added that “the government has overdelivered on every Carbon Budget to date and we’re on track to meet our future targets, which are among the most ambitious in the world.”

‘Strap In Fairly Tightly’

Last year experts told The Epoch Times that without changes to the Climate Change Act, which requires the government to set a legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, it will likely see legal challenges.

Lord Peter Lilley, who sits as a peer in the Environment and Climate Change Lords Select Committee, told The Epoch Times that he asked in 2008 what the legally binding act targets actually meant.

He asked whether failing to meet the target would result in holding all the energy ministers and prime ministers from the intervening period accountable, possibly leading to their trial and imprisonment.

“It obviously wasn’t because there were no penalties,” he said.

“Making it legally enforceable means the court can be brought in if the government’s not making the term long route,” he said.

“The Climate Change Act does strap the government in fairly tightly it’s got if a court case is brought against it,” he added.

Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.
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