High Court declares that Government’s net zero strategy breaches its obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008

High Court declares that Government’s net zero strategy breaches its obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008


CategoryNews Author Catherine Dobson Date

R (on the application of (1) Friends of the Earth Limited (2) ClientEarth (3) Good Law Project and Joanna Wheatley v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [2022] EWHC 1841 (Admin)

In a judgment handed down on 18 July 2022, Mr Justice Holgate ruled that the Government’s net zero strategy breaches its obligations under sections 13 and 14 of the Climate Change Act 2008. The strategy sets out the Government’s policies and proposals for meeting carbon budgets set by Parliament.

The Court held that the Secretary of State had approved the strategy without being provided sufficient information to be satisfied that the carbon budgets could be met. Specifically, he was provided insufficient information as to (a) the quantitative effects of individual policies and (b) a qualitative analysis explaining which policies were expected to make up a 5% shortfall against the reductions required by the Sixth Carbon Budget an in what ways. The Court held that, without that information, the Secretary of State had been unable to take into account, and decide for himself, the risk of the statutory targets not being delivered, in breach of his obligations under section 13.

The Court further held that the strategy did not contain sufficient information to enable Parliament and the public properly to understand how the Government intends to meet the statutory targets. The Court held that section 14 of the Act requires the Secretary of State to publish a report before Parliament with sufficient information to enable Parliament to scrutinise the Secretary of State’s policies and to hold him to account, as well as to provide transparency so that the public can properly understand how the Government intends to meet the statutory targets. The Court held that the Government’s net zero strategy did not satisfy the requirements of section 14 because it lacked any quantitative assessment of the contributions expected to be made by individual policies to reductions in GHG emissions, and also because the report did not reveal that the quantitative analysis carried out left a shortfall against the reductions required by the Sixth Carbon Budget, or how that shortfall was expected to be met.

A summary of the judgment is available online.

Friends of the Earth, Client Earth and the Good Law Project brought the challenge. Catherine Dobson and Nina Pindham acted for Friends of the Earth, led by David Wolfe QC.


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