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Permission won for judicial review of post-Brexit emissions trading scheme

An environmental campaigner has won permission to challenge the four governments of the UK over the exclusion of waste incinerators from the post-Brexit emissions trading scheme

Posted on 04 December 2020

Georgia Elliott-Smith, a waste industry expert and environmental consultant, has been granted permission for judicial review of the government’s decision to omit municipal waste incinerators from the scheme that will replace the EU emissions trading scheme from January.
 
She will also challenge the cap on the volume of emissions permitted under the emissions trading scheme.
 
Represented by Leigh Day solicitors, as well as David Wolfe QC at Matrix chambers and Ben Mitchell at 11KBW chambers, Georgia argued at the high court this week that in setting up the UK ETS, the Defendants did not give any consideration to the short and medium-term aspects of the UK’s obligations under the Paris Agreement which requires substantial and immediate emission reductions, not just at 2050.
 
She argues that the Climate Change Act 2008 grants the power to set up the UK ETS for the purpose of limiting or encouraging the limitation of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the cap decided by the Defendants was chosen for the improper purpose of ensuring that the UK’s exit from the EU would be smoother.
 
The emissions from incinerators are equivalent to approximately 5.4 per cent of the entire volume of greenhouse gas emissions covered by the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS).
The cap on the UK ETS in its first year will be 156 mtCO2e, substantially higher than the projected ‘business-as-usual’ emissions of 126-131 mtCO2e for 2021.
 
Georgia Elliott-Smith said:
 
“Today we’ve taken a huge step towards the sort of ambitious GHG reduction policies that the climate crisis demands.  In deciding that the grounds of my case are valid and arguable, the judge has enabled us to challenge the UK ETS in the High Court, demanding that waste incinerators pay for the pollution they create and that the UK meets its Paris Agreement commitments to limit global climate change.”
 
Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith added:
 
“We are delighted that the judges agreed that it is arguable that The Defendants’ failure to have regard for the UK’s short and medium term obligations under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was unlawful and that their setting the emissions cap to alleviate pressures on businesses was an improper purpose, as the relevant statutory power could only be lawfully exercised in order to limit or encourage the limitation of emissions.”
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Rowan Smith
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Rowan Smith

Rowan Smith is a solicitor in the human rights department.

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