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Press release: 12 January 2022
ClientEarth is taking the UK Government to court over its inadequate net zero strategy, arguing that its failure to set out credible policies to tackle climate change is unlawful.
The environmental law charity says the Government has breached its legal obligations under the Climate Change Act to demonstrate its policies will reduce emissions enough to meet the legally binding carbon budgets.
ClientEarth lawyers argue that the Government has failed to introduce sufficient and credible policies to ensure the net zero strategy will succeed, while betting on speculative and unproven technologies that risk the UK having to introduce more drastic measures in future.
Failing to meet carbon budgets exacerbates the severe risks and costs of climate instability on the generations least responsible for causing global heating. It would also disproportionately impact young people’s rights to life and to family and private life under the European Convention of Human Rights.
ClientEarth Senior Lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said: “It’s not enough for the UK Government simply to have a net zero strategy, it needs to include real-world policies that ensure it succeeds. Anything less is a breach of its legal duties and amounts to greenwashing and climate delay.
“The Government claims that those producing pollution should bear the cost of managing it. But its pie-in-the-sky approach to net zero pushes that risk onto young people and future generations who stand to be hit hardest by the climate crisis.
“Energy bills are currently soaring, in part because of the UK’s over-reliance on fossil gas for heating and poor levels of insulation. Government failure to deliver real climate action is resulting in higher bills for people.
On releasing the strategy in October last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government had centred its plans on a principle to “leave the environment in a better state for the next generation” and release them of the financial burden of adapting to a warming planet.
However, not only does the net zero strategy lack sufficient policies and rely on unproven technologies, it overlooks near-term solutions that would have immediate impact, including those recommended by the government’s own advisors, the Climate Change Committee.
New plans to roll-out low carbon heating and home insulation are well below the levels advised by the CCC – despite these measures presenting the highest co-benefits – while targets for peatland restoration also fall short.
“As the Climate Change Committee has emphasised, there are huge gaps in policy to insulate homes, support sustainable transport, promote climate-friendly food and farming, move to a low-waste economy, and manage aviation emissions,” Hunter Jones added.
“The UK is kicking the can down the road by failing to set out real budget-compliant policies, and betting the public’s future health and prosperity on long-shot technologies unlikely to deliver necessary emissions cuts.
“While the Government should of course invest and encourage innovation, the early-stage solutions featured in the strategy can’t make up for the lack of credible near-term action.
“Inadequate climate policies should concern us all. But the UK’s inadequate net zero strategy is a particularly serious risk and injustice for today’s young people and future generations. What’s more, the strategy also fails to deliver near-term benefits for people and communities – particularly those on low incomes currently struggling with soaring energy prices.”
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.