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‘Now they must face the music’

Government’s own assessments reveal big risks to net zero plans
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Elizabeth Tower from the houses of parliament, called Big Ben

Previously concealed government assessments revealing worrying risks to the delivery of its flagship net zero policies have been released for the first time by Good Law Project, Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth.

This comes as a legal challenge brought by the three organisations against the government over its latest net zero strategy is being heard in the High Court.

Net zero timetable in jeopardy

Initial analysis of these assessments – known as the ‘risk tables’ – by Good Law Project exposes some of the government’s own warnings that its Carbon Budget Delivery Plan to reach net zero by 2050 is being put in jeopardy by delays, an over-reliance on unproven technology, insecure funding and a lack of joined-up policy thinking.

These include roadblocks in the way of key policies the government expects will bank huge emission savings, such as capturing and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, upgrading the National Grid, supporting businesses to become more energy efficient and helping the industrial sector switch to using lower carbon fuels.

‘This is a big win for climate transparency. We now urgently need a credible climate plan to make sure we will meet legally binding net zero targets, grow the economy and create the next generation of jobs.

‘If it wasn’t for our legal action, ministers would have continued to hide these alarming assessments. But now they must face the music and come up with solutions – and there is no time to lose.’

Good Law Project’s legal director

Delayed risk table publication

For almost a year, ministers have repeatedly refused to publish the risk tables so they can be scrutinised by parliament, the Climate Change Committee and other experts. 

This is despite the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero’s acknowledgement in legal correspondence that these assessments could be shared in the public domain as soon as they are referred to in court proceedings.

‘These risk tables only further prove that the government is choosing to look the other way when it comes to the clear possibility of its climate plans failing. They show that the government is knowingly banking on uncertain, high-risk measures and an overall approach that simply does not add up. This is unacceptable, and we say that it breaches core parts of the Climate Change Act. 

‘Rather than publish this critical information alongside their plans, the government decided to keep this gamble with our planet’s future hidden from the public and Parliament.  

‘The government can take real climate action now – but instead they have chosen to conceal the reality of their plans from the British public and to continue to push the consequences onto current and future generations.’

ClientEarth lawyer

Breach of Climate Change Act?

Good Law Project, Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth are in the High Court 20-22 February to argue that the government’s revised net zero strategy, the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan, is inadequate and in breach of the Climate Change Act 2008.

This follows on from a successful legal challenge by the three organisations in 2022, where the High Court ruled that the government’s original climate action plan had breached the Climate Change Act and ordered the minister to come up with a revised plan to to reach upcoming carbon reduction targets.

‘It is striking that there is no reference whatsoever to these risk tables in the government’s climate plan. We only learnt of their existence through our case and it’s clear as more pieces of the puzzle emerge that much of the government’s ‘strategy’ to meet legally-binding climate targets amounts to wishful thinking.

‘Friends of the Earth is making the case in court that the failure to publish the risk tables is one of several examples of a concerning and unlawful lack of transparency and accountability by the government, which left parliament and the public in the dark about this climate plan’s dangerously high-risk nature. 

‘With extreme weather already devastating communities in the UK and globally, we urgently need the government to stop playing fast and loose with our futures and come up with an ambitious and credible climate action plan that enables everyone to benefit from the transition to a zero-carbon economy.’


Friends of the Earth lawyer

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