UK court rules government climate plan unlawful

A High Court judge ruled Friday that the UK government acted unlawfully when it approved a plan to meet climate targets without evidence that it could be delivered. It was the second time in two years that the government’s main climate action plan was found to be unlawful and insufficient in meeting legally-binding targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Justice Clive Sheldon sided Friday with three environmental groups that brought the case, ruling that the government’s decision to approve its Carbon Budget Delivery Plan last year was “simply not justified by the evidence.” The plan outlined how the U.K. aims to achieve its carbon budgets, including pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two-thirds of 1990 levels by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050. The judge said the details in the draft plan were “vague and unquantified,” and didn’t provide officials with enough information on whether the plan should be approved. Lawyers acting for the environmental organizations told the court that the government failed to share “risk tables,” or information about whether its policies could be implemented, with Parliament and others, meaning the plan couldn’t be properly scrutinized. “The courts have now told the U.K. government not once, but twice, that its climate strategy is not fit for purpose,” said Sam Hunter Jones, a lawyer for the group ClientEarth. “This judgment means the government must now take credible action to address the climate crisis with a plan that can actually be trusted to deliver and with numbers that can be relied on.” The government defended its record on climate change, saying it has set out “more detail than any other G20 country on how we will reach our ambitious carbon budgets,” referring to the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations. “The claims in this case were largely about process and the judgment contains no criticism of the detailed plans we have in place. We do not believe a court case about process represents the best way of driving progress towards our shared goal of reaching net zero,” it said in a statement. Officials said they would publish a new report within 12 months following the judge’s ruling. Last year, the U.K. government’s own climate advisers, which tracks the country’s progress, said that it was losing confidence in the government’s ability to meet its emission targets, and slammed officials for backtracking on fossil fuel commitments.

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