UK Emissions Trading Scheme ruled lawful

30th July 2021

Web p10 uk emissions trading scheme ruled lawful credit gettyimages 163395478

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Pollution & Waste Management


Chris Westcott

In Elliott-Smith v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for judicial review of the legality of the defendants’ joint decision to create the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) as a substitute for UK participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

The aim of both schemes is to motivate the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Each operates under a ‘cap and trade’ system. A cap is set on the amount of certain GHGs that can be emitted by sectors of the economy in a given period. The cap is divided into allowances, which are either given to those required to participate in the scheme, or must be purchased to cover emissions generated. The cap is reduced over time to cause a steady fall in emissions.

The claimant brought the application for judicial review on the grounds that the Paris Agreement required urgent action to limit GHGs. In approving the UK ETS with the cap and auction reserve price proposed, the claimant argued that this criteria was not fulfilled.

The court concluded it was not for the court to decide on an international treaty, but it could assess whether the defendants’ view of the Paris Agreement was tenable. The judge stated: “adopting this tenable view approach, I am entirely satisfied that the approach to the Paris Agreement... is one which is tenable and entirely appropriate”.

The claimant also argued that under the Climate Change Act 2008, “limiting or encouraging the limitation of activities” must be interpreted to mean a reduction in GHG emissions, which was not satisfied by the UK ETS.

The court considered the definition of a trading scheme in the Climate Change Act 2008, the long title of the Act, and the Explanatory Memorandum. Justice Dove concluded that a trading scheme under the Act “does not necessarily have to achieve a reduction in the activities consisting of GHG emissions or causing or contributing such emissions: it is sufficient that the design of the scheme limits or encourages the limitation of those activities”.

The application was refused.

Image credit: GettyImages

Transform articles

From crisis to community

The Better Business Act would put responsibility to society and the environment on the same footing as responsibility to shareholders, explains Chris Turner

30th July 2021

Read more

Thames Water has been fined £4m after untreated sewage escaped from sewers below London into a park and a river.

30th July 2021

Read more

In R. (on the application of Hudson) v Windsor and Maidenhead RBC, the appellant appealed against a decision to uphold the local authority’s grant of planning permission for the construction of a holiday village at the Legoland Windsor Resort.

28th May 2021

Read more

Are voluntary commitments enough to make the private sector act on waste? David Burrows explores the issues

28th May 2021

Read more

EIA screening should be comprehensive, says Paul Stookes.

6th December 2010

Read more

Civil sanctions make the punishment fit the crime, says Richard Kimblin.

6th September 2010

Read more

The UK's largest water company has been fined twice in seven days for polluting waterways in Berkshire and East Hampshire with sewage.

20th December 2011

Read more

Lawyers acting for the environment department have confirmed for the first time that the UK is breach of its legal obligations to lower air pollution levels

16th December 2011

Read more

The legality of the government's proposals to halve subsidies for solar projects will be challenged in the high court next week, after a judge ordered an urgent review.

15th December 2011

Read more

Media enquires

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

Find an expert