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No Government appeal on UK net zero ruling

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The UK government will not be appealing the July 2022 UK High Court ruling that its net zero strategy was unlawful, as it failed to outline the policies that would enable the  country to achieve net zero.

  • The UK High Court has deemed the UK Net Zero Strategy to be unlawful. The UK government, which has other problems at present, is not appealing.
  • Outlining the policies that will take the UK to net zero is required under the 2008 Climate Change Act.
  • Implementation, or the plan for how publicised net zero targets, are going to be increasingly important moving forward. Whether country or company, if you don’t have a plan, you’re not credible.

In a landmark victory in July 2022, the High Court agreed that the Government’s strategy failed to show how the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets would be met. October 2022 saw the announcement that the government will not be appealing against the ruling.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) – which drove the legal challenge with ClientEarth, Good Law Project and environmental campaigner Jo Wheatley – said that the landmark ruling was a “huge victory for climate justice and government transparency”

Responding to the news, Jo Maugham, Director of Good Law Project said:So the Government has been forced to accept that its flagship climate strategy is unlawful. Another embarrassing climbdown.

“Rather than threatening communities with fracking, Liz Truss and Jacob-Rees Mogg should focus their efforts on improving the strategy so they meet the UK’s legally-binding climate targets and move away from expensive fossil fuels to deliver on

UK net zero strategy is nowhere near effective

The existing strategy too weak to achieve net zero. In fact the Climate Change Committee warned in June 2020 that there are only credible policies to achieve 39% of the emission cuts needed.

The government is currently undertaking a review of the strategy, not because it was unlawful but to ensure its not going to be too burdensome on companies and individuals. This is a significant concern given the current government’s seeming lack of understanding of the energy market.

The current government’s solution to the energy crisis is to open up new oil fields and support fracking. In the last few days, a total of 34 extra blocks have been added for the 33rd oil and gas licensing round, which the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) said has been allowed “following further consultation with the MoD (Ministry of Defence)”. The extra acreage, available in the central and southern North Sea, means more than 900 blocks are now on offer in the round, which closes on January 12.

Not only will this not solve short term energy supply challenges or affect the price of energy, but it suggests there is very little understanding of net zero, why it matters and what is required to achieve the goal by 2050.

Friends of the Earth lawyer, Katie de Kauwe added: “ The best way to put our climate goals back on track and ensure long-term sustainable growth is to pull the plug on new fossil fuel developments and invest in real solutions to the myriad crises we face: developing the UK’s immense renewable energy potential and insulating people’s homes.”

New strategic approach required

Now that the Government has confirmed it won’t be appealing, its efforts must now be directed at publishing a revised Net Zero Strategy that complies with July’s ruling and results in an effective net zero strategy.

Sam Hunter Jones, a senior lawyer at ClientEarth added: “This new strategy is also an opportunity for the Government to address the spiralling cost of living crisis at the same time as making the required emissions savings. This can be done through a number of measures including a rapid roll-out of home insulation across the country and a swift transition to renewable energy.”

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