A landmark court decision has ruled that the UK government’s net-zero strategy is illegal because it does not explain how targets will be met.
It discovers that parliament and the public were kept in the dark about a failure to meet a key emission-cutting target.
The High Court decision, issued in the midst of the Met Office’s first-ever red alert for extreme heat, stated that the strategy, which outlines plans to decarbonize the economy, falls short of the government’s obligations under the Climate Change Act.
According to Mr Justice Holgate’s decision, Greg Hands, the minister for business, energy, and industrial strategy who was in charge of signing off on the net-zero strategy, did not have the legally required information on how carbon budgets would be met.
Nonetheless, he approved the strategy.
Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth, the Good Law Project, and environmental campaigner Jo Wheatley filed the legal challenges, which were heard together at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Behind-the-scenes calculations by civil servants to quantify the impact of emissions cuts from policies in the net-zero strategy did not add up to the reductions required to meet the sixth carbon budget – the volume of greenhouse gases the UK can emit from 2033 to 2037 – were revealed in court.
This 5% shortfall in the sixth carbon budget is significant in terms of climate change, totalling around 75 million tonnes of CO2 – nearly the total annual emissions from all car travel in the UK.