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Elliott-Smith v. Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy et al.

Jurisdiction: High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division

Principle law(s): Climate Change Act

Side A: Elliott-Smith (Individual)

Side B: Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy et al (Government)

Core objectives: Whether the UK Emissions Trading Scheme sets an improperly high emissions cap and unlawfully excludes incinerator emissions

In December 2020, Georgia Elliott-Smith, a waste industry expert and environmental consultant, won permission to challenge two aspects of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS), which will replace the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in January 2021. Elliott-Smith alleges that the total emissions cap is too high to meet short and medium-term obligations under the Paris Agreement, and that the emissions cap unlawfully omits municipal waste incinerator emissions. She further alleges that the Climate Change Act of 2008 sets the purpose of the UK ETS as reducing emissions, whereas the government set the emissions cap for the improper purpose of easing the UK's exit from the EU. 

The plaintiff's challenge was dismissed in July 2021. However, in dismissing the case the court noted that its acceptance of the government's arguments did not require any denial of the "the urgency of the need to address climate change and involves the recognition that in order to meet the long term requirements of the Paris Agreement action is required now. Taking measures in the short term is an essential part of achieving the longer term objective, and that approach is clearly tenable in the light of the provisions of article 4.1." 
Case documents

Related laws and policies
  • GBR flag This law implements United Kingdom legislation
    Climate Change Act

    Passed in 2008 Legislative

    The Act provides a long-term framework to improve carbon management, to help the transition to a low carbon economy, encourage investment in low carbon goods and provide an international signal. The Act establishes a legally binding target for the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net z...

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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