Court rules against Government’s net-zero strategy

The High Court this week ruled that the Government’s net-zero strategy breaches the Climate Change Act and needs to be strengthened.

ClientEarth submitted the case to the High Court, and after it was granted permission to proceed in March, and partnering with Friends of the Earth and Good Law Project, the case was presented that the Government had failed to show that its policies will reduce emissions sufficiently to meet its legally binding carbon budgets - targets that limit the total amount of greenhouse gases that the UK can emit over five year periods on the road to net-zero.

It was also argued that the net-zero strategy failed to include enough information about the policies and their expected effects to allow Parliament and the public to properly scrutinise its plans.

It was discovered during the court case that the Government’s plans only added up to 95 per cent of the reductions needed to meet the sixth carbon budget, but this information was not included in the net-zero strategy. And, critically, the reliability of this figure as a realistic estimate remains in doubt.

“It’s not enough for the UK Government simply to have a net zero strategy, it needs to include real-world policies that ensure it succeeds,” said Sam Hunter-Jones, ClientEarth lawyer. “Anything less is a breach of its legal duties and amounts to greenwashing and climate delay.”

The Government now has eight months to update its climate strategy to include a quantified account of how its policies will actually achieve climate targets. These will need to be based on a realistic assessment of what it actually expects them to deliver. The updated strategy will then be presented to Parliament for scrutiny.

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