Climate: Friends of the Earth writes to government lawyers
Friends of the Earth's lawyers have written to the government seeking urgent clarification on how Rishi Sunak’s decision to weaken a number of environmental policies will impact on legal challenges currently underway.
Friends of the Earth – along with ClientEarth and Good Law Project – launched legal challenges earlier this year to the government’s climate action strategy (the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan), published in March (See note 1 for more information)
Friends of the Earth maintains that the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero acted unlawfully by failing to properly consider delivery risks to its policies, and that there was no legally sufficient basis for the Secretary of State to conclude that the proposals and policies “will enable” the carbon budgets to be met.
The Carbon Budget Delivery Plan sets out government policies for meeting the UK’s carbon reduction targets (known as “carbon budgets”). These 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.
Weakening of climate plans
Following Rishi Sunak’s decision earlier this week to weaken a number of green policies, Friends of the Earth's lawyers have written to government asking them to urgently explain what this means for the current litigation. We’re waiting for a response.
It’s unclear what the impact of Mr Sunak’s proposals will be on the UK’s ability to meet its targets, but his announcement was deeply concerning. A government press release on the Prime Minister’s announcement said the government “will bring forward comprehensive new reforms in due course".
Friends of the Earth lawyers will carefully study any revised plans for meeting UK Carbon Budgets. Further litigation is an option.
Friends of the Earth senior lawyer, Niall Toru, said:
“Rishi Sunak’s decision to weaken UK climate policies will make it harder to meet our climate targets.
“We will carefully scrutinise any new set of plans. Friends of the Earth is already taking the government to court over its climate strategy - and we stand ready to take further legal action if Mr Sunak’s sums don’t add up.”
- Friends of the Earth’s current legal challenge
Friends of the Earth's current legal challenge is about whether the plan announced in March was lawful, not about any policy changes since then.
Our challenge is that the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero acted unlawfully by failing to properly consider delivery risk to its policies, and that there was no legally sufficient basis for the Secretary of State to conclude that the proposals and policies “will enable” the carbon budgets to be met.
The Climate Change Committee, the government’s independent advisers on climate, found in June this year there are now only credible plans for less than a fifth of the emissions cuts needed to meet the UK’s legally binding climate targets.
The High Court has ordered a ‘rolled up’ hearing into the case which will be heard next year: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate/high-court-hear-legal-challenges-governments-climate-plans
Last year, the same three organisations successfully challenged the government’s original Net Zero Strategy, with the High Court finding that the government had breached the Climate Change Act and ordering the government to revise its strategy (the subsequent CBDP resulted).