R (oao Friends of the Earth et al) v Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (Net Zero Challenge)
Jurisdiction: High Court of Justice, England and Wales
Principle law(s): Climate Change Act
Side A: R (oao Friends of the Earth) (Ngo)
Side B: Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (Government)
Core objectives: Whether the SoS’s adoption of the Net Zero Strategy did not discharge his duties under the Climate Change Act 2008, and whether the adoption of the Heat and Buildings Strategy has meant that the SoS has breached the Equality Act 2010. In relation to ClientEarth’s and the Good Law Project’s claims: whether the SoS’s adoption of the Net Zero Strategy did not discharge his duties under the Climate Change Act 2008, and whether these duties had been interpreted compatibly with human rights obligations.
SummaryOn October 19, 2021, the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (Kwasi Kwarteng; the “SoS”) adopted the Net Zero Strategy (NZS) and the Heat and Buildings Strategy (HBS). The NZS is the Government’s economy-wide decarbonization strategy, and the HBS is the specific strategy for decarbonizing heating and homes. On January 12, 2022, Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland (“FoE”) filed a claim for judicial review against the SoS, in relation to the NZS and the HBS. FoE argues that both strategies were unlawfully adopted.
Following legal challenges brought by (1) Friends of the Earth, (2) ClientEarth and (3) Good Law Project and Joanna Wheatley, the High Court ruled on 18 July 18, 2022 that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Kwasi Kwarteng; the “SoS”) breached s.13 and s.14 of the Climate Change Act 2008 (“CCA”) when he adopted the NZS on 19 October 2021. Holgate J found that the NZS had been unlawfully adopted as:
1. The Minister had legally insufficient information before him to adopt the NZS (breach of s.13 of the CCA). For example, whilst he had been informed that the quantified policies in the NZS added up to c.95% of the emissions reductions needed to meet the sixth carbon budget (CB6; set under the CCA, and covering the period 2033-2037), he had not been provided with the breakdown of the contributions of the individual policies, and it had not been explained to him how the 5% shortfall would be made up. This mean that he was not able to properly understand the risk to the delivery of the policies in the NZS. Risk to delivery was an obviously material consideration.
2. The NZS itself lacked vital information which meant that Parliament and the public were unable to properly scrutinize it (breach of s.14 of the CCA). For example, Parliament was not aware of the 5% shortfall for meeting CB6. The NZS should have included quantified policies (i.e. setting out what their individual emissions reductions were estimated to be), in order for Parliament to be able to scrutinize risk to delivery. The judgment placed “considerable weight” on the views of the Committee on Climate Change, the independent expert body under the CCA, which had advised the Government that the NZS should include quantified policies.
GLP’s separate ground relating to the HRA was not successful; Holgate J concluded that it was too ambitious and did not accord with established principles.
- Claimants' joint press release. (English)
- Judgment issued by the High Court (English)
- Summary of the judgment issued by the High Court (English)
- Press release - Friends of the Earth briefing. (English)
- Press release - Client Earth press release. (English)
- Press release - Good Law Project Press Release. (English)
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