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


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

Transform articles

Global water crisis threatens $58trn in economic value, WWF claims

Climate change and pollution are having a devastating impact on the world’s water and freshwater ecosystems, which are worth an estimated $58trn (£48trn) in annual economic value.

16th October 2023

Read more

Water is an increasingly stressed resource. Despite covering more than 70% of the planet, only a tiny fraction is available as fresh, clean drinking water.

28th September 2023

Read more

The UK government and water regulators may have broken the law over untreated sewage discharges made last year, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has said today.

12th September 2023

Read more

A total of 25 countries – home to a quarter of the global population – face extremely high water stress each year, regularly using up almost their entire available renewable supply.

17th August 2023

Read more

A one-day conference, organised by community interest company Climate Action North, is showcasing some of the extensive work taking place to restore and conserve the seas and oceans.

1st August 2023

Read more

We need to embrace the spirit of the pioneers of the water sector and planning to enable new models that challenge the status quo, says Sandra Norval

1st June 2023

Read more

Water companies could be hit with “unlimited fines” for polluting the environment under a new plan unveiled by the UK government today.

4th April 2023

Read more

As PFAS seep into the public consciousness (and bloodstream), Chris Seekings reports on what’s being done to regulate them

30th March 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