The High Court has agreed to hear a joint challenge by green groups to the UK government’s updated net zero strategy, which was unveiled in March 2023 after the previous iteration was ruled to be unlawful.
The groups, Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and the Good Law Project, will argue that the updated strategy does not go far enough to meet the UK’s legally binding climate targets as set out under the Climate Change Act of 2008.
They say that it lacks the sector-specific detail and level of incentives needed to decarbonise the economy.
Last year, three organisations successfully challenged the UK government’s original net zero strategy, with The High Court finding that the government had breached the Climate Change Act by failing to set a legally binding plan to meet its carbon reduction targets. The court ordered the government to revise its strategy and ensure that it is compliant with the law.
UK carbon reduction targets (known as “carbon budgets”) are legally-binding, and the government of the day is required, under the Climate Change Act, to deliver a legally compliant plan – or face the risk of being taken to court.
The hearing against the latest strategy is expected to take place in the coming months and will give the green groups the chance to make their case in full. The government will also have the opportunity to defend its strategy with the New Energy Security, and Net Zero Secretary Clair Coutinho also being invited to appear.
“There has been speculation over this Government’s commitment to climate action,” said ClientEarth’s lead in the UK, Kyle Lischak. “But the law remains clear – the government must have plans in place that can be relied on to deliver the UK’s climate targets.”
The challenge comes as the UK government faces increasing pressure to take action on climate change. The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the government’s independent advisers, has previously said that the country is “strikingly unprepared” for the impacts of the climate crisis and that its plans are “not ambitious enough” to meet its net zero targets.
The government has said that it is committed to reaching net zero by 2050, but it has been criticised for its lack of progress on decarbonising key sectors such as transport and energy.
Last week, a number of UK financial institutions also cautioned the government that a lack of clarity on the future risks “undermining investor confidence” and may hinder investment in the areas required to ensure a net zero future.
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