Communications strategist, anti-greenwashing expert, and podcaster Sian Conway-Wood has written a piece for us on the recent Net Zero high court case.
In a landmark case brought by ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and Good Law Project, the High Court has ruled that the UK Government’s Net Zero strategy is inadequate.
The ruling found that the strategy has failed to include enough information about the policies and expected effects to allow parliament and the public to scrutinise the plans.
It was discovered during the court case that current plans only add up to 95% of the reductions needed to meet the 6th carbon budget – the volume of Greenhouse Gas Emissions the UK can emit in the 2033-37 period. (And the reliability of this figure as an estimate is still in doubt).
These targets are legally binding under the 2008 Climate Change Act (CCA) – legislation which sets out greenhouse gas emission reduction targets that the UK must comply with.
It was the first global legally binding climate change mitigation target set by a country, and committed the UK to reducing GGEs by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. This target was made more ambitious in 2019 when the UK became the first major economy to commit to a net zero target by 2050 (balancing the emissions produced with the emissions taken out of the atmosphere).
However, the Government’s latest published forecasts show the UK’s projected emissions in 2033-37 being more than double the levels they are legally required to adhere to, and the High Court ruled that due to these failings, the UK Government breached its legal duties under the Climate Change Act 2008.
Updated plans must include sound policies that stand up to scrutiny by the Climate Change Committee – an independent statutory body established under the Climate Change Act to advise UK and devolved governments on emissions targets, and report to parliament on progress made.
The Government is now legally obliged to strengthen their Net Zero strategy and actually show how its plans will deliver the emissions cuts it is legally bound to achieve.
Sam Hunter-Jones, ClientEarth lawyer, said: “This decision is a breakthrough moment in the fight against climate delay and inaction. It forces the Government to put in place climate plans that will actually address the crisis. It’s also an opportunity to move further and faster away from the expensive fossil fuels that are adding to the crippling cost of living crisis people are facing.”
Sian Conway-Wood is a social entrepreneur, sustainability expert, bestselling author, speaker, and Founder of #EthicalHour and director of 181St Street.
Sian was a Year of Green Action ambassador for the UK government and was the UK’s Sustainability Influencer of the Year in 2018 and 2020. One of ‘40 Women In Tech To Watch’ (2020), she has won multiple awards for her impact as founder of #EthicalHour – the world’s first and largest online network for ethical & sustainable startups. As author of the book “Buy Better Consume Less Create Real Environmental Change”, she is a regular media commentator on conscious consumerism and greenwashing in print, radio and television around the world.