Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham has threatened legal action over the government delays to the implementation of net zero policies, calling the decision “unlawful”.
In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Packham accused the government of “playing populist politics with the future of life on Earth,” and threatened legal action if Sunak does not reverse the policy delays.
Packham’s threat comes after a similar case was brought by green groups, including Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth, and the Good Law Project. These groups are currently awaiting a High Court hearing to challenge the government’s previous net zero strategy.
The delays announced last week include the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars, which was originally scheduled for 2030 but has been pushed back to 2035, and the phase out of new gas boilers in favour of heat pumps.
According to Sunak, the changes were made in the interest of making “long term” decisions in the national interest. Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, on Wednesday, he defended his position, saying he wants to protect the public from costs that are, “disproportionately falling on the poorest in society.”
“We believe politicians have a duty to treat household budgets with respect, and that change only endures if we bring people with us,” Sunak said. “As you can tell by the reaction to my decision to chart a new course on net zero, it was not the easiest argument to have.”
“All of it not actually necessary in those timeframes to meet our net zero targets, and in spite of us doing more than any other country, I concluded that it simply wasn’t right,” he continued.
In his letter to the PM, Packham added that, “even before this spontaneous, ill-judged and – we contend – unlawful announcement, the UK Government’s plans to meet its legal net zero commitments were shambolic and destined to failure.
“Its own Climate Change Committee’s last report said that continued delays in policy development and implementation meant reaching those targets was increasingly challenging.”
This references the latest Report to Parliament from the CCC from June which said the government’s current plans are currently “not ambitious enough” and “lack detail” in key areas, even before the latest roll back.
Earlier this week, former chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), Lord Deben criticised Sunak’s decisions, calling them “not to be conservative at all”.
Mr Packham said this change of direction was made without any public consultation, without informing Parliament, or even the CCC – which advises the Government on how to meet its carbon budgets.
Any changes to carbon budgets have to be made according to a process in the Climate Change Act, which also requires the Government to set out how it will meet the upcoming sixth carbon budget, which Mr Sunak has not yet explained.
The CCC has said it needs to ”go away and do the calculations” in response to the changes, however the committee’s chair Piers Forester believes, “[the] announcement is likely to take the UK further away from being able to meet its legal commitments.”
At the time of publish, the Prime Minister has 6 days to reply to Mr Packham’s letter or reverse his decision before the naturalist and TV presenter goes to the High Court.
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