Climate Change Litigation: Friends of the Earth and Net ZeroMarch 2022
On 2 March 2022, the High Court granted permission to Friends of the Earth UK (FoE), a grassroots environmental campaign organisation, to apply for judicial review of the UK Government’s Net Zero and Heat and Buildings strategies, which were issued in October 2021.
The Net Zero Strategy (NZS) sets out how the Government intends to half UK carbon emissions in little over a decade, and to eliminate them entirely by 2050. The Heat and Building Strategy (HBS) explains how the Government intends to reduce emissions from heating residential and commercial buildings, which currently account for almost a quarter of carbon emissions in the UK.
These strategies have recently come under scrutiny and FoE has argued that they do not comply with the Climate Change Act 2008, due to their failure to create a clear roadmap to a greener future. It is also argued that the Government has not met their duties under sections 13 and 14 of the Climate Change Act 2008, as the policies do not contain assessments of their effectiveness to meet carbon budgets or quantify the emission reductions.
The FoE have made further allegations regarding the impact that the HBS may have on vulnerable groups. It has argued that the phase-out of gas boilers in homes, will negatively impact those who are already at risk of falling into fuel poverty, due to increased energy prices from energy companies and the fact vulnerable groups are most likely to be living in fuel-poor homes. The FoE has also argued that the Government’s alleged failure to consider factors such as age, race, gender, and disabilities could breach the Equality Act 2010.
If FoE is successful in the judicial review process, this could lead to further scrutiny of the policies and result in the Government re-considering and strengthening the UK’s Net Zero targets. This would hopefully create more transparency and accountability for any failures, alongside the public being able to quantify the efficiency of the proposals more easily.
Climate change litigation has become more and more common worldwide, as the desire to create a sustainable future continues to grow. This has in turn led to both companies and governments increasingly being held accountable for their failures to reduce emissions.
Irrespective of whether FoE’s application for judicial review is successful, there will be rising pressure on the Government to create more robust and fair policies to transition to a greener future. This is particularly pertinent in circumstances where energy prices are already rising and there is further uncertainty due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The judicial review application may also lead to other policies affecting the built environment being scrutinised and more data-driven deliverables created to decarbonise the industry. For example, the Government’s commitment to investing £650bn in the sector over the next decade and to provide 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, may be further clarified in the future. We will await further developments with interest.
Should you require any further assistance or have any queries on the above, please contact Michael Salau, Priya Thakrar or Daniel Andoh.Download PDF