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The Government is still failing on net zero, so we are taking them back to court

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Good Law Project is taking legal action with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth to ensure the Government tackles the climate crisis.

We’re now in the crucial decade to stop irreversible damage from global heating, but our Government still hasn’t produced a realistic plan to tackle the climate emergency.

Last year, we teamed up with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth, and went to the High Court to successfully force the Government to rewrite its woefully inadequate net zero strategy.

But the plan that Ministers came back with – the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan – still isn’t up to scratch.

The independent Climate Change Committee recently concluded that the Government has lost leadership on climate action and made decisions that were “utterly unacceptable”. The CCC thinks that the UK is failing to hit its climate targets on almost every front.

Alarm bells should be ringing across Whitehall. Having a serious plan to tackle the climate crisis cannot wait. And it’s not just our planet at stake, but also our economy, energy security and ability to compete on the global stage when it comes to developing green infrastructure and technologies.

It’s vital that we can all see if the Government’s flagship plan for tackling the climate emergency is actually going to work. So it is deeply alarming that the Government’s new plan does not properly set out the risks of key policies missing these essential climate goals.

We’re joining forces with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth again to launch a multipronged legal challenge against the Government over its new net zero strategy.

In last year’s landmark judgment, the High Court ruled that the Government’s original net zero strategy didn’t meet its obligations under the Climate Change Act to produce detailed climate policies that show how the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets will be met.

That judgment compelled the Government to publish a new net zero strategy – the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan – with the detail necessary for public and Parliamentary scrutiny.

But, after carefully studying the new plan, lawyers for Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project all think this revised plan breaches the Climate Change Act too. And so, alongside Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth, we are again taking the Government to court.

Good Law Project’s legal challenge focuses on the Government’s failure to include a proper assessment of the delivery risks associated with the policies and proposals in the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan.

We believe that this is unlawful because it is a breach of section 14 of the Climate Change Act 2008, which requires the Secretary of State to publish sufficient information to allow meaningful scrutiny of the Government’s net zero policies.

We want to help the public and Parliament to hold the Government to account on its new climate change strategy and to stop Ministers from hiding vital information.

To bring this legal challenge, we need your help.

Details

Good Law Practice has instructed Jason Coppel KC and Peter Lockley at 11 KBW.

Good Law Practice is an independent law firm launched in 2022 by Good Law Project. It supports Good Law Project, and its partners, to bring strategic litigation in the public interest.

We are raising money to cover our legal costs. We have applied for a costs cap in order to limit the risk of adverse costs if the challenge is not successful. Our legal team are acting at significantly reduced rates.

Read our Pre-Action Protocol (PAP) letter to the Government here and the Government’s response here.

You can read our Statement of Facts and Grounds here.

10% of the funds raised will be a contribution to the general running costs of Good Law Project. It is our policy only to raise sums that we reasonably anticipate could be spent on the work we are crowdfunding for. However, if there is a surplus it will go to develop and support further work we do to fight for a better fairer future for all.

Crowdfunder Updates

  • 20/02/2024

    Update - this crowdfunder is now closed

    This week, we’re in court, arguing that the Government’s refusal to disclose the risk tables is in breach of the Climate Change Act, which requires it to publish sufficient information for proper scrutiny of net zero policies. If we win, it will help to set a new and higher standard of transparency for publishing climate plans.

    This is the focus of our side of a wider legal challenge with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth against the Government over its inadequate Carbon Budget Delivery Plan.

    Now we’ve brought the risk tables to light, we can make sure the Tories are properly held to account.

    On the back of this success, we’re pushing forward with a body of work to protect our environment – from forcing the Government to unleash the power of onshore wind to making water companies clean up their act on sewage. Anything you can give to support this and our wider work will help us make positive change.

  • 01/12/2023

    Government stalls on climate transparency as Sunak jets to COP28

    We gave Ministers a final chance to come clean over the risks to their plans for net zero. But the Government is trying to buy time before the weaknesses in its climate strategy are revealed.

    Rishi Sunak is off to Dubai in his private jet, to speak at COP28. What the Prime Minister won’t tell world leaders during his flying visit is that his Government is currently delaying the publication of a set of assessments which threaten to expose the flaws in its latest net zero plan.

    The Government has rejected Good Law Project’s final offer to settle our legal challenge before we reach the courtroom by publishing these assessments. This is despite the fact that the Secretary of State in charge of net zero, Claire Coutinho, has admitted that as soon as they are mentioned during our upcoming High Court hearing, we can publish them ourselves.

    In theory, the Government could apply for a court order blocking their publication, but it’s unlikely that such a last ditch attempt at concealment would succeed.

    The Government is desperate to keep these assessments under lock and key. The sooner we can all look at them, the sooner Ministers will have to face up to any shortcomings in their net zero strategy and take action to fix them.

    Is the Government trying to save itself from this embarrassment during COP28?

    Rishi Sunak may claim the UK is a leader in tackling the climate crisis, but actions speak louder than words. Instead of making sure his plans to reach net zero are fit for purpose, he keeps kicking the can down the road.

  • 06/10/2023

    We have a date in court with the Government to demand honesty about net zero

    Rishi Sunak and the Net Zero Secretary, Claire Coutinho have declared they want a more honest conversation about how we tackle the climate emergency. But we are seeing the opposite. 

    Instead of being transparent, the Government is refusing to let the public and Parliament see its own assessments of whether the policies it’s come up with will actually achieve our net zero targets.

    During our legal action so far, we have forced the Government to confirm the existence of these assessments – known as the ‘risk tables’ – but it is refusing to publish them. 

    It’s vital that we can see and scrutinise these risk tables. Because without that it’s impossible to tell whether the policies are effective or not.

    Even before Rishi Sunak’s recent rowing back on green pledges, we knew the Government’s current roadmap was unlikely to get us to net zero by 2050. And with Sunak’s latest rowback we are drifting yet further away from meeting our legally-binding climate duties.

    We are now going to court to find out just what Ministers are trying to hide. This is part of a joint legal challenge with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth against the Government over its latest inadequate and unlawful net zero plan.

    The hearing will be heard over three days from 20th February next year. 

    And we’re keeping the pressure up. We’ve also recently written to the Government demanding answers on just how Ministers expect to hit net zero when key climate policies are being watered down. 

     

     

  • 21/09/2023

    We’re demanding answers from Government about how it can still expect to hit net zero

    Despite his rowing back on climate pledges, Rishi Sunak claims that his Government can somehow still hit its legally binding net zero target, so we have asked it to show its working.

    Today, we have written to the Net Zero Secretary, Claire Coutinho, suggesting we are likely to challenge, in the High Court, her Government’s backsliding on Net Zero.

    The letter demands answers as to how the Government expects to fulfill its legally-binding duty to meet upcoming carbon budgets whilst weakening its commitment on key green policies. The letter points out that the independent Climate Change Committee had grave concerns about whether the  Government would meet those carbon budgets – even before yesterday’s backsliding. The letter notes the Committee’s warning, in response to Sunak’s watering down of net zero policies, that his announcement “is likely to take the UK further away from its legal commitments”.

    Last year, we went to the High Court and successfully forced the Government to rewrite its original inadequate and unlawful net zero strategy. We had already brought legal proceedings alongside ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth challenging its second attempt to meet its legal duties. Today’s letter posits that we will extend our existing challenge or bring fresh legal proceedings in the absence of satisfactory answers to our questions.

    The Government’s lack of commitment to getting to net zero is clear: in recent months, we have seen it announce a North Sea Oil and Gas licensing bonanza and completely fail to expand offshore wind projects.

    Yesterday, Rishi Sunak proclaimed that “we’re now going to have a better, more honest debate about how we get there.” We plan to hold him to that promise.

  • 20/09/2023

    As the PM goes cold on net zero we are keeping up the legal heat

    Rishi Sunak’s shameful rowing back on key climate pledges shows why the legal challenge we are bringing with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth is more important than ever. We are holding the Government to account to ensure their plans to reduce emissions are effective and transparent.

    The Prime Minister’s destructive new plans are designed only to grab headlines and a political gamble to please the right wing of his party. But the stakes for the environment are much higher. And most people agree that we must do better than this – and we can.

    We believe the Government’s current policies to reduce emissions are already inadequate and unlawful. The last thing we need is for them to be weakened further.

    In fact, through our latest legal action, we have forced the Government to disclose to us that its latest net zero plan is already fraught with risks.

    We are now going back to court to demand the Government reveals how successful the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan is likely to be for each individual government department.

    Ministers have refused to make these ‘risk tables’ public and in the next few months we’ll have a hearing in the High Court to try and force the Government to publish them for all to see.

    This is the second time we have taken legal action against the Government over net zero. Last year, we teamed up with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth, and went to the High Court to successfully force the Government to rewrite its woefully inadequate net zero strategy.

    But the renewed plan isn’t up to scratch either – and to make matters worse it is now about to be stripped back further.

    We want to help the public and Parliament hold the Government to account on its new net zero strategy and to stop Ministers from hiding vital information.

     

  • 01/09/2023

    We’re challenging the Government to come clean on risks of missing net zero

    The Government refused to publish the risks facing its plan to reach net zero. Now the High Court will hear our case to force them to disclose the data.

    Our new legal challenge focuses on the assessments carried out by the Department for Net Zero and Energy Security of the ways in which its policies might fail. The Government has told us during these legal proceedings that they have put together “risk tables” for the policies outlined in its Carbon Budget Delivery Plan, but it has refused to make them public.

    We want to uncover just what it is they are trying to hide.

    It’s impossible to tell whether a policy is effective without knowing anything about the difficulties it faces. The Climate Change Committee wasn’t able to see these risk tables before it published its damning report on the Government’s net zero strategy earlier this year. They must now be published to allow proper scrutiny from Parliament and from the public.

    We are in the crucial decade to turn the tide on global heating, but we can only succeed if the policies we put in place are up to scratch. And with so much at stake, we won’t stand by and allow the Government to duck transparency once again.

    The Government’s refusal to publish this data flies in the face of the Climate Change Act 2008 and the landmark victory we won in the High Court last year, when we teamed up with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth. The judge ordered the Government to come up with a net zero strategy that is fit for purpose and includes an assessment of the risks surrounding these policies.

    We say the Government’s legal obligations are clear, but the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan published in March fails on both these counts. That’s why all three organisations are launching another round of legal action.

    Over a three day hearing, the High Court will decide whether to allow our legal challenges to go ahead and, if it does decide to give the green light, it will then hear the substantive arguments together.

    You can read our Statement of Facts and Grounds here.

This crowdfunder is now closed.

Thanks to the amazing support of Good Law project supporters, we raised  £69,317.15

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