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Chris Packham

Chris Packham granted permission for judicial review on additional ground relating to the government’s abandonment of green policies

The High Court has granted permission for TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham CBE to move forward with a judicial review of the government’s decision to abandon its statutory green policies on the ground that there was a breach of the duty to inform the public of the reasons for the decisions to change the policies.

Posted on 27 June 2024

The decision follows an earlier ruling on 4 March 2024 which granted permission for Mr Packham to move forward with a judicial review of the government’s decision on three other grounds. In that judgment his fourth and fifth grounds were dismissed but a renewal application was made in February and that application was ruled on today.

Following the ruling by the High Court, Mr Packham said:

“Not only have the government effectively reduced our capacity to realistically reach our agreed Net Zero commitments by a significant margin - which is reckless - they have also asserted that they have no need to inform us of any changes in plans or policy in between a five-year period, which is dangerous. The scientists, who can be trusted, have given us five years to act. The Government, who cannot be trusted, want to keep us in the dark whilst they fail to act to protect our future. You couldn’t make it up and you don’t have to - because they did!”

Carol Day, solicitor from law firm Leigh Day, added:

“Our client is delighted the judge recognised the public interest significance of ground five of his application, which asserts the Government is under an obligation to tell the public, industry and bodies like the Climate Change Committee, when it has made material changes to its Carbon Budget Plan. This ground raises crucial questions about Government transparency and accountability, which deserve to be scrutinised in the main hearing in November.”

The ruling means that the substantive hearing on 12-13 November 2024 will hear a judicial review on four grounds of the Energy Secretary and Transport Secretary’s decision to abandon proposals and policies from its section 14 Climate Change Act 2008 report to Parliament.

The grounds of the judicial review are as follows:

  • The obligation under Section 13 Climate Change Act 2008 to have proposals and policies to meet carbon budgets is continuing and the proposals and policies must be current. If they are altered, there must always be plans in place to meet the budgets. The secretaries of state breached this obligation (ground one).
  • There was a failure to take into account considerations listed under Section 10 of the Climate Change Act, such as the risk to delivery of proposals and policies and to the achievement of the carbon budgets and the 2050 net zero target (ground two).
  • There was a failure to consult on the changes, particularly a failure to take into account ongoing consultations about off-grid heating and minimum energy efficiency in rental properties (ground three).
  • There was a breach of the duty to inform the public of the reasons for the decisions to change the policies  (ground five).

The court refused Mr Packham’s application to bring a judicial review on the ground that the decisions were based on misinformation (ground four).

Mr Packham applied for a judicial review in autumn 2023 after the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that his Government was abandoning: 

  • The accelerated transition to zero emission cars and vans by 2030 (the ZEV Policy).
  • The phasing out of new and replacement gas boilers by 2035 (the Heating and Buildings Package, and below).
  • A prohibition on installing fossil fuel heating in homes not connected to the gas grid from 2026.
  • A policy to require all privately rented homes to be EPC band C or better for all new tenancies from 2025 and all tenancies from 2028.

Mr Packham is represented by Rowan Smith, Carol Day and Julia Eriksen at Leigh Day and barristers David Wolfe KC (Matrix), Catherine Dobson (39 Essex Chambers) and Toby Fisher (Matrix).

Carol Day
Environment Judicial review Planning Wildlife

Carol Day

Carol founded the firm's environmental litigation service in 2013

Rowan Smith
Climate change Environment Human rights Judicial review Planning Wildlife

Rowan Smith

Rowan Smith is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.

Julia Eriksen
Climate change Environment Human rights Planning

Julia Eriksen

Julia is an associate solicitor in the human rights team