Media reaction: 20 September 2023

UK abandoning any vestiges of climate leadership with net zero rollback

In response to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's announcement to delay net zero measures, ClientEarth CEO Laura Clarke said:

"As countries everywhere are battered by floods, heatwaves and wildfires, and as the world gathers in New York to accelerate climate action to address the crisis facing our planet, the UK Government has signalled that it is abandoning any vestiges of climate leadership.

“We know that climate action has broad public support, will reduce reliance on expensive fossil fuels, and secure a better future for our children. Further weakening climate policy is bad economics, bad politics, and legally high-risk too.

On legal risk

“ClientEarth is already challenging the government’s existing climate plan on the basis that its policies cannot be relied on to deliver the UK’s carbon budgets. Any reduction in the overall strength of the government’s measures would only worsen that position against what the Climate Change Act requires.

“We will continue to pay close attention to any further announcements to assess these against the UK's legal obligations."

On government advice

“The government’s own climate advisors the Climate Change Committee have already delivered a dire assessment of the UK’s existing policies. And the government’s own net zero review and the independent Office for Budget Responsibility have both stated that inaction will vastly outweigh the costs of action on climate change.”

On energy efficiency delays

“As the CCC says, taking real action on emissions can happen with ‘no regrets’ policies that will also help struggling households. Making homes more energy efficient is a clear win-win for reducing emissions and increasing energy security for people today and in the future.

“Delaying the gas boiler phaseout means higher bills for households and increased reliance on expensive and polluting gas, while failing to introduce energy efficiency regulations for privately rented homes leaves struggling renters out in the cold.”

On combustion engine ban delays

“The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel from 2030 is the main measure the government is relying on for carbon reductions from the transport sector.

“Without introducing significant additional measures elsewhere, pushing this back to 2035 risks throwing the UK even further off track from meeting its legally-binding targets, as well as endangering job creation and raising uncertainty for business – as key manufacturers such as Ford have highlighted.”

About ClientEarth

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.