Friends of the Earth's legal team stand outside the Royal Courts of Justice holding placards calling for a better climate plan from government

Why's the government's climate plan unlawful?

The Climate Budget Delivery Plan was the government’s latest attempt at a climate plan. Senior Lawyer Niall Toru explains why it wasn’t up to scratch and why it’s making headlines...
  Published:  03 May 2024    |      1 minute read

We won, again! In May 2024, Friends of the Earth defeated the government in the High Court over its unlawful climate plan. 

What’s wrong with the government’s climate plan?

"Where do I start? The plan the energy secretary signed off on lacked detail and feasibility. It’s a bit like approving a blueprint for a 2-storey house that doesn’t include stairs.

"We have a target to reduce emissions quite drastically by 2030, and we have other targets for later years too. The climate plan's there to keep us on track. It should set strong policies to do this, but we now know those working behind the scenes lacked confidence the policies would deliver the cuts needed. This was confusing to us, as the plan itself said all policies would be delivered in full. In other words, everything would be ok.

"And it wasn’t just us that was concerned. Our case was supported by a very important former official climate advisor to the government, Lord Deben, who had his own stinging criticisms."

What’s the 2030 target?

"Our government pledged to cut emissions by 68% by 2030. That’s what the 2030 target refers to.

"It’s quite a big milestone, but isn’t really common knowledge (yet), so lots of people are unaware of just how poorly the government is doing on this issue. Worryingly, the UK government is dangerously off track to meet that target, which is its commitment under international law..."

Do you come here often?

"Well actually, this is the second time we’ve been in court over the plan (and won). The first time around the plan was called the “Net Zero Strategy”. That was also half baked and thankfully the judge agreed with us then too. On both occasions we worked with ClientEarth and the Good Law Project, who also brought challenges against the plan."

What does this mean for climate action?

"Our victory in court hopefully means that the government will now do its job properly and come up with a new credible plan that prioritises fair solutions and means we can meet our climate targets. In other words, helping people not polluters, bringing benefits such as lower energy bills, warm homes, clean air and well-paid green jobs."

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