Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could potentially face legal challenges following his U-turn on net zero pledges.
Last week, Sunak announced he would be approaching the government’s commitment to net-zero in a more “pragmatic” way as he confirmed a delay to the 2030 ban on the sale new diesel and petrol vehicles by five years, as well as a number of other policy changes.
Now, however, a series of a climate campaigners, including Friends of the Earth, have written to the government seeking clarification on how Rishi Sunak’s decision to weaken a number of environmental policies will impact on legal challenges currently underway.
Friends of the Earth – along with ClientEarth and Good Law Project – launched legal challenges earlier this year to the government’s climate action strategy (the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan), published in March.
Friends of the Earth maintains that the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero acted unlawfully by failing to properly consider delivery risks to its policies, and that there was no legally sufficient basis for the Secretary of State to conclude that the proposals and policies “will enable” the carbon budgets to be met.
The Carbon Budget Delivery Plan sets out government policies for meeting the UK’s carbon reduction targets (known as “carbon budgets”). These are legally-binding, and the government of the day is required under the Climate Change Act to deliver a legally compliant plan – or face the risk of being taken to court.
Following Rishi Sunak’s decision earlier this week to weaken a number of green policies, Friends of the Earth’s lawyers have written to government asking them to urgently explain what this means for the current litigation.
Friends of the Earth senior lawyer, Niall Toru, said: “Rishi Sunak’s decision to weaken UK climate policies will make it harder to meet our climate targets.
“We will carefully scrutinise any new set of plans. Friends of the Earth is already taking the government to court over its climate strategy – and we stand ready to take further legal action if Mr Sunak’s sums don’t add up.”