It's only Wednesday and already this week has brought a win from the courts! Any and all victories scored among animal and environmental advocates like us are worth celebrating, since we quickly get used to the uphill climb of making any traction at all. But as an added bonus, this important case is (sadly) quite a surprising win, achieving ground-breaking progress on possibly the most difficult and most crucial issue: the environment. What's the opposite of demoralising, because that's how we're feeling! Remoralised!
UK: Climate Crisis and Net Zero Policies
In June, the Royal Courts of Justice heard legal challenges brought by Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth, Good Law Project, and campaigner Jo Wheatley, in which they argued the government's climate change strategy failed to demonstrate how it would actually meet the promised emissions cuts. On Monday, the court agreed that the strategy failed to explain how the government would meet the emissions target, and thus had failed to meet its obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008. We said failed a lot in this paragraph when talking about this government! What else is new!
Seeing a rare good result from a climate crisis challenge felt like a real sigh of relief during this record-busting heat wave, like maybe someone with power is finally grasping what's happening.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Holgate said the Net Zero Strategy, meant to establish the detailed plans for decarbonising the UK economy, did no such thing - there was insufficient detail or explanation for how the targets would actually be met. Show your work, guys!
Apparently, minister for business, energy and industrial strategy Greg Hands signed off on the Net Zero Strategy even though he was not given any of the legally required information for how the government would actually attempt to meet the carbon budgets. He just washed his Hands of his responsibility to the country, and now he has blood? egg? on his Hands. He better go wash those Hands!
It emerged during the proceedings that the calculations that civil servants made to quantify the impact of emissions cuts did not add up to meet the necessary reductions. These calculations and what they mean in real terms were not shared with Parliament or the public. Fortunately, Monday's judgment appears to highlight the need for government transparency and accountability especially when it comes to the climate crisis.
Now that the High Court has ruled that the government's Net Zero Strategy breaches the Climate Change Act, the next PM will have to update and strengthen the policy to show in detail how the policies will work and what they will realistically deliver. The updated policy will then be presented to Parliament.
Not only is this a victory for climate justice, Friends of the Earth rightly says it is also a victory for government transparency - something we all need as desperately as we need them to actually do something about the climate breakdown. As we sit here sweltering in this record-breaking heat wave, it's a bit of vindication to have the power of the courts acknowledge what's happening to the world and assure us we aren't taking crazy pills.