Government defeated in High Court over climate plans

Related Topics
chimneys billowing smoke in front of a setting sunImage source, Getty Images

The government has been defeated in court - for a second time - for not doing enough to meet its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental campaigners argued that the energy minister signed off the government's climate plan without evidence it could be achieved.

The High Court ruled on Friday that the government will now be required to redraft the plan again.

In response the government defended its record on climate action.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: "The UK can be hugely proud of its record on climate change. We do not believe a court case about process represents the best way of driving progress towards our shared goal of reaching net zero."

The legal challenge was brought by environmental groups Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and The Good Law Project.

Tony Bosworth, lead campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said it was "an embarrassing day for the government".

Speaking outside the court to BBC News he said: "What we now need to see is a climate plan which is robust, which is comprehensive and which is fair, which makes sure we meet all our climate targets, and which does that in a way which doesn't leave anybody behind."

The three groups had previously won a case against the government back in 2022 arguing that its Net Zero Plan was not detailed enough to explain how the UK would cut its emissions - as required by the Climate Change Act.

In response the government produced a plan which laid out how each of its policies would cut emissions.

But the campaigners said the former Energy Secretary Grant Shapps did not consider the risks to deliver the plan and signed it off assuming all the policies would be achieved.

In his judgement, Mr Justice Sheldon said: "It is not possible to ascertain from the materials presented to the Secretary of State which of the proposals and policies would not be delivered at all, or in full."

Later on Friday, the judge is expected to provide a deadline for reviewing the plan.

Asked about the judgement, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he had not seen the ruling in detail but was "proud of our track record" on climate change.

Ed Miliband, Labour's shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, reacted to the High Court's ruling saying it signified a new low even for what he said was "a government that has totally failed on energy and climate for fourteen years".

The government had previously been warned that the plan was not sufficient by its own climate watchdog.

When the new plan was published in March 2023 the UK Climate Change Committee (UKCCC) said it was even less confident that the government could achieve its climate goals than before it published the plan.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,

In November the government announced it would issue new oil and gas licences every year

The UK has a target to reduce its emissions by 78% by 2035 against 1990 levels. But the UKCCC estimated the government plan would only deliver a fifth of the emissions cuts needed in the coming decade.

It said of the plan published in 2023: "Despite over 3,000 pages of new detail, [our] confidence in the UK meeting its goals from 2030 onwards is now markedly less than it was in our previous assessment a year ago."

In particular the committee criticised, external the government's failure to support clean energy and its support for new fossil fuel projects.

In July 2023 Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced 100 new North Sea oil and gas licences - on the basis this would secure jobs and energy security for the UK.

The International Energy Agency has previously said, external there is no need for investment in new oil and gas projects to meet global energy demand.

Sign up for our Future Earth newsletter to get exclusive insight on the latest climate and environment news from the BBC's Climate Editor Justin Rowlatt, delivered to your inbox every Tuesday. If you are outside the UK, sign up to our international Future Earth newsletter here. , external

Related Topics