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Friends of the Earth granted permission for judicial review of Government’s Net Zero Strategy and Heating and Buildings Strategy

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE) has been granted permission for judicial review of the Government’s Net Zero Strategy (NZS) and Heating and Buildings Strategy (HBS).

Posted on 03 March 2022

FoE claims the NZS does not meet its obligations under Sections 13 and 14 of the Climate Change Act 2008 to enable Parliament to clearly evaluate how the Government intends to achieve its carbon budgets.

The Climate Change Act requires the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to ensure that emissions of UK Greenhouse Gases are at least 100 per cent lower in 2050 than they were in 1990. Under Section 4 of that Act, his department must set five-yearly carbon budgets. The NZS was presented in October 2021, but does not show the carbon emissions cut that each of Mr Kwarteng’s proposals or policies will achieve and when each is expected to take effect.

FoE also claims the HBS published at the same time at NZS fails to consider its impact on protected groups including the elderly, the young, those living with disabilities, and ethnic minorities. It says Mr Kwarteng’s conclusion that the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 did not apply to his strategy for transitioning to high-efficiency low carbon buildings is unlawful.

In a decision published this week, Mr Justice Cotter said FoE’s four grounds of claim are arguable and the Government will have to address them all at the judicial review hearing to be held at the High Court later in 2022.

Importantly, Mr Justice Cotter awarded FoE costs protection under the Aarhus Convention, the international law governing access to environmental justice. FoE’s claim will be heard together with two other cases brought by NGOs, including ClientEarth. FoE is represented by Leigh Day, as well as David Wolfe QC (Matrix), Catherine Dobson (39 Essex) and Nina Pindham (No5 chambers).

Katie de Kauwe of Friends of the Earth said:

“We are delighted that the High Court has granted us permission to take the Government to court on all of our grounds. The judge agrees that our case has a realistic chance of success and merits investigation at a full hearing.

“Principally, we hope to prove just how woefully inadequate the government’s Net Zero Strategy is, the same policy framework that is supposed to be the UK’s roadmap to a safer, greener future. We believe the Government has breached the Climate Change Act 2008, a vital piece of legislation that Friends of the Earth was pivotal in bringing into law. We will now get to work on preparing our case, and look forward to our day in court.”

Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said:

“We are delighted with the news. This is an incredibly important development within wider climate change litigation, because the Court will now – for the first time – fully investigate whether the Government’s legal obligations under Sections 13 and 14 of the Climate Change Act 2008 have been fulfilled. Crucially, it will scrutinise whether the level of detail contained in the Net Zero Strategy enabled the Secretary of State to lawfully conclude that the UK will actually meet carbon reduction targets. The issue of whether future generations have been placed at a particular disadvantage, as our client believes they have as a result of these policy gaps, will also be analysed.”

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Rowan Smith
Planning Wildlife

Rowan Smith

Rowan Smith is an associate solicitor in the human rights department.

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Friends of the Earth legal challenge to Government’s Net Zero Strategy and Heating and Buildings Strategy

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE) has issued a legal challenge to the Government’s Net Zero Strategy (NZS) and Heating and Buildings Strategy (HBS) just months after the Glasgow Climate Conference.

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