The UK government’s failed to provide sufficient detail regarding its strategy to reach net zero emissions, according to a ruling Monday by the High Court, which also ordered the publication of a more detailed plan early next year.
The UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its Net Zero Strategy in October 2021, aimed at describing its plan to deliver on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050, a requirement set into law under the revised Climate Change Act in 2019. As part of the Act, the government’s Secretary of State for BEIS – currently Kwasi Kwarteng – is required to provide 5-year “carbon budgets” towards meeting the 2050 goal.
In cases brought by environmental and legal campaign groups Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project, the organizations argued that the government’s strategy left out key details on how the climate targets would be achieved, particularly relating to the quantifiable contributions each of the policies outlined would contribute to meeting the carbon budgets.
In the ruling by Mr Justice Holgate, the court found in favor of several of the organization’s claims, noting that the strategy presented by BEIS left out vital components, including “the quantitative effects of individual policies,” along with qualitative details regarding policies the strategy relied upon to make up a 5% shortfall revealed in the most recent carbon budget towards reaching its goals.
The summary of the ruling published by the court stated that “the NZS lacked any quantitative assessment of the contributions expected to be made by individual policies to reductions in GHG emissions, and also because the report did not reveal that the quantitative analysis put before the Minister left a shortfall against the reductions required by CB6, or how that shortfall was expected to be met.”
In a statement following the ruling, the Good Law Project said:
“The dangerous heatwave this week is a stark reminder of the very real threat we face. Our infrastructure and homes were designed for a climate that no longer exists. This cannot wait. The Net Zero target must be a road map to a sustainable future – not a lie we tell our children.”
As part of the ruling, the BEIS was ordered to publish a new report by the end of March 2023, setting out the proposals and policies for meeting its carbon budgets, including details on time scales and how the policies are expected to affect different sectors of the economy, in order to allow Parliament to scrutinize the policies, and to provide transparency to the public on the government’s plans to reach net zero.
Following the ruling, the BEIS said that it was important to be clear the case was not about challenging the strategy altogether, but rather “about the level of analysis published,” that the Net Zero Strategy “has not been quashed,” and that the government’s plans “are well on track.”
Click here to access a summary of the High Court ruling.