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Case update 20 November 2023

Government delays, but it must come clean on risks to net zero

PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Ministers now face little choice but to disclose the risks that put their plans in danger of missing climate targets. But what are they trying to hide?

When we forced the Government to revise its net zero strategy, it refused to publish its assessments of whether its Carbon Budget Delivery Plan will actually meet legally-binding targets to hit net zero.

It’s crucial that these risk tables, which the Government wouldn’t even talk about before we started legal action, can be scrutinised by experts, Parliament and the public.

We’re in the decisive decade to tackle the climate crisis, so we need to know whether the Government’s strategy is fit for purpose before it’s too late to change track.

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Good Law Project has a date in February for a hearing at the High Court on this case. As soon as the risk tables are mentioned in court, we can and will publish them.

If the Government wanted to fight tooth and nail to conceal this vital information, it could apply for a court order blocking publication. It’s hard to imagine how such a last ditch attempt at concealment could possibly succeed. So it’s not a question of if the risk tables will be published, but when.

With the climate emergency already wreaking havoc across the world, delay only increases the dangers. We’ve given the Government until 27 November to decide if it wants to do things the easy way – by publishing the risk tables now – or the hard way – by dragging this through the courts.

Rishi Sunak and Claire Coutinho have both pledged more honesty over net zero, but we have seen the opposite: the Government has told both Good Law Project and Parliament that it won’t publish the risk tables despite our calls for transparency.

Rishi Sunak has rowed back on key green policies, and is proposing to give out licenses for fossil-fuel drilling in the North Sea every year. Last week, the Public Accounts Committee found that the Government is failing to make the long-term investment needed to meet the 2050 net zero target.

It’s not too late for Ministers to do the right thing. Our demand for transparency is only part of a wider, multi-pronged legal challenge we’re bringing with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth over the Government’s inadequate net zero strategy.

But we can only do this with your support. Anything you can give to support our legal challenge will help us make positive change.