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Environmental campaigners seek legal action over Net Zero Strategy

Words: Laura Edgar
Environmental campaigners seek legal action / iStock-467606118.jpg

Friends of the Earth has filed papers with the High Court to bring forward a judicial review against the government’s ‘lacklustre’ strategies to address the climate crisis.

The campaigners are challenging the government’s Net Zero Strategy (NZS) and its Heat and Buildings Strategy, which were published in October.

The UK Government committed £3.9 billion of new funding for the decarbonisation of heat and buildings as part of the strategy. It sets out how the government intends to secure 440,000 “well-paid jobs” and unlock £90 billion of private investment by 2030.

The strategy is the government’s plan to end its contribution to the climate crisis by 2050.

Plans to decarbonise heat and buildings include a £450 million three-year boiler upgrade scheme, which will be implemented through the Heat and Buildings Strategy.

Friends of the Earth contends that the Net Zero Strategy does not comply with the Climate Change Act 2008 and that the Heat and Buildings Strategy should have considered “the impacts of its policies on protected groups, as part of ensuring a fair energy transition where climate action aligns with social responsibility”. Factors such age, sex, race and disability can make people more vulnerable to climate impacts, it maintains, and political accountability is needed for “unaddressed inequality”.

The campaign group also cites its own research that found that people of colour are twice as likely as white people to be living in fuel poverty.

For the group, the pathways to reach net zero in the Net Zero Strategy “are theoretical, because they are not supported by government policy which shows how they can be fulfilled”. Therefore, it asserts, the Net Zero Strategy is not lawful and does not allow Parliament and members of the public to hold the government accountable for any failures.  

Katie de Kauwe, lawyer at Friends of the Earth, said: “With characteristic sleight of hand the government has set out an imaginary pathway for reducing carbon emissions but no credible plan to deliver it.

“A rapid and fair transition to a safer future requires a plan that shows how much greenhouse gas reduction the chosen policies will achieve, and by when. That the plan for achieving net zero is published without this information in it is very worrying, and we believe is unlawful.

“We know that those who do least to cause climate breakdown are too often the hardest hit. Climate action must be based on reversing these inequalities, by designing the transition with the most vulnerable in mind. Not even considering the implications of the Heat and Building Strategy on groups such as older and disabled people, and people of colour and ethnic minorities is quite shocking, given that these groups are disproportionately impacted by fuel poverty, for example.

“Housing is a good example because people who need to consume the smallest amount of energy due to cost find themselves trapped in reliance on gas heating in cold, leaky homes. And now people across the country are facing an energy price crisis, with gas prices expected to double compared with just two years ago.

“The bottom line is that the government’s vision for net zero doesn’t match the lacklustre policy that is supposed to make it possible. We are very concerned at the potential consequences of such a strategy for people in this country, and across the world, given the climate emergency.”

Image credit | iStock