Govt climate policies fall short of legally binding sixth carbon budget, court hears

Press release
Revelation comes on day 1 of Net Zero Strategy legal challenge
  Published:  08 Jun 2022    |      3 minute read

It was revealed in the High Court today that policies outlined in the government’s Net Zero Strategy will not add up to the reductions necessary to meet the sixth carbon budget - the volume of greenhouse gases the UK can emit during the period 2033-37.

The revelation was made during a legal challenge – by Friends of the Earth, Good Law Project and ClientEarth – to the government’s Net Zero Strategy. 

 Under the Climate Change Act the government must produce climate policies that will ensure that legally binding carbon budgets are met. 


But a government submission, read out in court today, makes clear that the quantified policies in the Net Zero Strategy only added up to around 95% of the carbon reductions needed to meet the sixth carbon budget. The shortfall would, according to the government, be made up by additional polices that are still to be developed.

 This information has not previously been available to Parliament or the public, reducing the possibility of effective scrutiny. 
Friends of the Earth lawyer, Katie de Kauwe, said:

“It’s taken legal action to reveal that the policies in the government’s Net Zero Strategy do not add up to the emission reductions needed to meet the sixth carbon budget – a target it is legally required to meet. This information should have been made available to both Parliament and the public.

“We believe this is proof that the government’s climate strategy is both inadequate and unlawful. 

“We need a Net Zero Strategy that ensures UK climate targets are met and enables the country to seize the benefits of building a cleaner, safer future.”



Notes to editors

1. The following was read out to the court today (this is part of the government’s evidence):

#8 Drawing from net zero scenarios in 2050, the Net Zero Strategy presents a modelled indicative pathway to CB6, broken down by sector based on their potential to decarbonise. While the exact areas for emissions savings may shift in response to real-world changes and as our understanding increases – we use ranges for each sector to reflect this uncertainty – the pathway provides a sound basis on which to plan how we meet our emissions targets. The indicative pathways are supported by specific policies and proposals. If delivered in full, the specific policies and proposals outlined in Annex C are projected to overachieve CB4 by 11Mt p.a. and CB5 by 72Mt p.a. We need to aim to overachieve on CB4 and 5 in order to stay on track for our NDC and CB6 (which were set after we increased our ambition to meet net zero by 2050). They are also projected to achieve our 2030 NDC. The strategy provides a strong foundation for decarbonising in the 2030s, with the stated policies and proposals projected to directly deliver ~95% of emissions reductions required for CB6. 

#10 Although our ambitious SR bid for NZS policies did not result in all the funding requested, we advise that the NZS package of policies and proposals credibly enables us to be on track for all our legislated carbon budgets, and therefore fulfils our duty under sections 13 and 14 of the CCA (see Annex F). This is based on current modelling and planned policy work to identify further options over the coming years to deliver CB6 in full, taking advantage of technological progress, innovation and societal trends. It is not necessary for the policies and proposals included on the face of the NZS to deliver 100% of the emissions reductions required for CB6, providing they are sufficient to keep the targets in reach and that we continue to develop further policies and proposals as required in coming years (see paras 15 and 16, and Annex F, for legal risks associated with this position). It is also worth noting that the Strategy uses conservative assumptions on Global Warming Potentials which will be reviewed in 2022, taking into account any relevant outcomes from COP26 which are likely to improve our performance on our carbon budgets. 

2. Net Zero: High Court to hear challenge over “inadequate and unlawful” strategy | Friends of the Earth press release.

3. Friends of the Earth’s legal challenge briefing.