High Court declares government’s revised net zero strategy is in breach of its obligations under the climate change act


In July 2022, the High Court held that the Government’s Net Zero Strategy was unlawful and ordered it to produce a revised strategy that complied with its obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008.

Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth challenged the Government’s fresh strategy, the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan, which was published in May 2023.

In a judgment handed down today, the Court held that the Secretary of State had breached his duty to adopt plans and policies that “will enable” the carbon budget to be met, as required by section 13 of the Climate Change Act. Specifically, in adopting the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan, the Secretary of State had acted on the basis of an incorrect understanding of the facts, namely that each of the policies and proposals in the Plan would be delivered in full.  Further, the Secretary of State had acted irrationally in circumstances where emissions savings from the polices and plans relied on by the Secretary of State failed effectively to reflect delivery risk. As such, they provided no meaningful assessment of any shortfall in the emissions savings that the plans would deliver.  Here, there was very low confidence in the delivery of policies and plans in the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan that had been projected to deliver at least 50% of projected emissions savings.  Accordingly, the Plan could not stand as one that the Secretary of State could rationally conclude “will enable” the carbon budget to be met.

The Secretary of State is now required to prepare a revised plan within 12 months.

David Wolfe KC acted for Friends of the Earth, and Jessica Simor KC and Emma Foubister acted for ClientEarth

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