Judicial review of Net Zero strategy upheld in parts

21st September 2022


In R. (on the application of Friends of the Earth Ltd) v Secretary of State for the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for judicial review of the Secretary’s decisions to approve pro-posals and policies prepared under the Climate Change Act 2008, and to publish the government’s Net Zero Strategy to comply with his obligations.

The 2008 Act established a framework for the government to meet its net-zero target, and obliged the Secretary to ensure that the 2050 net UK carbon account was at least 100% lower than the 1990 baseline. He was also required to set an amount for the net UK carbon account for successive five-year periods, with a view to meeting the 2050 target.

The act additionally imposed a continuing duty on the Secretary to prepare proposals and policies that would allow carbon budgets to be met, and to lay before Parliament a report setting out proposals and policies for meeting current and future budgetary periods, up to and including that budget. The Secretary set six carbon budgets and, following the sixth, laid the Net Zero Strategy before Parliament as a report in October 2021.

The claimant argued that the Secretary was not entitled to conclude that the proposals and policies would enable the carbon budgets to be met, because their quantified effects were estimated to deliver only 95% of required reductions. However, the judge concluded that the act “does not require the Secretary […] to be satisfied that the quantifiable effects of his proposals and policies will enable the whole of the emissions reductions required by the carbon budgets to be met”.

The claimants stated that omissions from the briefing provided to the Secretary meant he could not be satisfied that the proposals and policies would allow the sixth carbon budget to be met. This ground was upheld in part.

The claimant also argued that the Secretary had failed to include in the strategy the information required to discharge his reporting obligations. The statutory objective of transparency around how the targets were to be met required reports explaining and quantifying how the proposals and policies would meet them; the strategy failed to explain various matters relating to risks that could affect delivery of the targets. This ground was upheld in part.

The claimant also said that the Human Rights Act 1998 could be applied to give the 2008 Act the effect for which they pleaded, dependent on the proposition that Parliament should be assumed to have intended that the 2008 Act had to be interpreted as more, rather than less, conducive to the protection of rights set out by the European Court of Human Rights. This did not coincide with established principle and was rejected.

Image credit | iStock

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

UK government accused of attempting to relax sewage rules ‘through the backdoor’

Campaign group Wild Justice has accused the UK government of trying to relax pollution rules for housebuilders “through the backdoor”.

14th February 2024

Read more

Digital tracking, packaging data delays and new collections provide a waste focus for this edition’s environmental round-up by legislation expert Neil Howe

28th November 2023

Read more

Environmental crimes could result in prison sentences of up to 10 years and company fines of 5% of turnover under a proposed EU law agreed by the European parliament and council.

21st November 2023

Read more

Stuart McLachlan and Dean Sanders discuss their book: The Adventure of Sustainable Performance: Beyond ESG Compliance to Leadership in the New Era.

14th November 2023

Read more

From government compromises on retained EU law, to disposable vapes, Neil Howe provides an update on the ever-evolving world of environmental legislation

3rd August 2023

Read more

Litigation is becoming a key tool for delivering climate justice and action, with the number of court cases more than doubling worldwide in just five years, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has found.

27th July 2023

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close