UK Government’s Climate Action Plan is unlawful

The High Court has ruled that the UK Government’s current climate action plan is unlawful, as there is not enough evidence that sufficient policies are in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This legal challenge was brought forward by the environmental charities Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth, who took joint legal action with the Good Law Project against the Government’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) over its proposed Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (CBDP) that was approved in March 2023. The High Court upheld four of the five grounds of the group’s legal challenge, stating that the central assumption that the DESNZ policies would achieve 100% of their intended emission cuts was wrong and that the proposed CBDP was based on an incorrect understanding of the facts.

This is the second time the Government has been beaten back on its Net Zero Plan in court, with the first instance in 2022 where the Government’s Net Zero Plan was ruled not detailed enough to explain how the UK would actually cut its emissions. This most recent ruling will come as little surprise to some, as when this new plan was initially published in March 2023 the UK Climate Change Committee (UKCCC) stated that “Despite over 3000 pages of new detail confidence in the UK meeting its goals from 2030 onwards is now markedly less that it was in our previous assessment a year ago”.

The energy secretary, Claire Coutinho is now expected to draw up a revised CBDP plan within 12 months, ensuring that the UK achieves its legally binding carbon budgets and upholds its pledge to cut emissions by more than two-thirds by 2030, which currently, it is off track to meet.