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Case update 03 May 2024

High Court rules Tory net zero plan unlawful – again

The government had to rewrite its net zero plan after we teamed up with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth. Now the courts have decided that the plan they came up with to replace it is unlawful too.


The High Court – which said the government’s Net Zero Strategy was so inadequate it was unlawful in 2022 – has struck again. In a landmark judgment, the court has ruled that the plan the Tories came up with to replace it is not fit for purpose and the secretary of state must go back to the drawing board, again.

The court has found that Grant Shapps, the net zero secretary who drew up the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan after the Net Zero Strategy was found unlawful, gave key policies the green light without even looking at the assessments of the risks surrounding them. This marks another staggering failure from the government to protect our planet, build the green economy and create the next generation of jobs.

We expect that later today the court will order the secretary of state, Claire Coutinho,  to draw up a revised plan within 12 months – a plan which makes sure the UK meets its legally binding carbon budgets and its international pledge to cut emissions by over two-thirds by 2030, both of which are currently off track.

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We are proud to have worked with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth, whose legal arguments secured today’s vital ruling. This builds on our earlier success, where we forced ministers to release risk tables they had tried to keep under lock and key. Together with Friends of the Earth, we published them in full so parliament, experts, journalists and the public can see Tory policies on net zero are at a high risk of failure.

“This welcome ruling shows that the law is our best – and often last – line of defence against a government that is failing to act as it must to address the climate emergency,” said Good Law Project’s legal director, Emma Dearnaley. “And we will continue to use it to push for accountability and greater ambition”.

For Client Earth’s senior lawyer, Sam Hunter Jones, this time the court has made it emphatically clear.

“The government cannot just cross its fingers and hope for unproven techno-fixes and uncertain policies to plug the huge gaps in its plans,” Hunter Jones said. “No more pie in the sky – the government must now take real action.”

According to Friends of the Earth lawyer Katie de Kauwe this is “another embarrassing defeat” for the government and its reckless and inadequate climate plans.

“It shows the strength of the Climate Change Act to hold the government of the day to account for meeting its legal requirements to cut emissions,” she said.

This ruling comes after the European Court of Human Rights found that states – including the UK – must take “immediate” action to reach net zero.

It’s time for the government to come up with a climate plan that matches the seriousness of the climate crisis – a climate plan that delivers.

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