Sat. May 25th, 2024

The UK High Court ruled on Friday that elements of the nation’s net-zero strategy are unlawfully “vague and unquantified.” This judgment calls into question the government’s approach to addressing climate change and requires officials to revise their plans.

The ruling follows a legal challenge brought by Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth, and the Good Law Project, which claimed that the UK government’s approval of the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (CBDP) in March 2023 was not adequately substantiated. The plan outlines how the UK intends to meet its carbon budget goals through 2037 as part of broader efforts to achieve net zero by 2050.

High Court judge Clive Sheldon sided with the campaign groups, stating that the information presented to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero was insufficient for a proper assessment. The judge remarked that it was unclear which policies might not be delivered or to what extent they could achieve their intended goals, indicating a breach of the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act, which requires thorough due diligence on emissions-cutting strategies.

“This is another embarrassing defeat for the government and its reckless and inadequate climate plans,” said Katie de Kauwe, a lawyer for Friends of the Earth. The court’s decision puts additional pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has faced mounting criticism for perceived backsliding on the UK’s commitment to its net-zero targets after a series of climate policy reversals.

The government now must redraft its carbon budget plan to address the court’s concerns. A spokesperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero maintained that the judgment contained “no criticism of the detailed plans we have in place,” asserting that the case was largely about process rather than substance. However, critics argue that the ruling reveals deeper issues with the government’s commitment to climate change mitigation.

This is the second time in two years that the High Court has ruled against the UK government’s approach to climate policy. A similar judgment in 2022 also found the government in breach of its own climate change laws, emphasizing the ongoing legal and public scrutiny over the country’s efforts to address the climate crisis. The latest ruling underscores the need for more precise and actionable plans to achieve net-zero targets and align with the requirements of the Climate Change Act.

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