UK Government Is Facing Second Round of Legal Action Over Controversial Net Zero Strategy

Ministers are being forced back to the drawing board for a second time, after green campaign groups have initiated legal action over the strategy’s inadequacies.  

UK Energy Secretary, Greg Shapps was already forced by the High Court to revise the net-zero strategy and publish a new version, as it was ruled unlawful.  

However, campaign groups (Friends of the Earth, the Good Law Project and Client Earth) have asserted that the new version is still not acceptable. As a result, the cabinet may need to revise the strategy again to avoid further legal action.  

The net zero strategy (Powering Up Britain) was marketed as a solution to guarantee UK energy security, but the plan has barely any new funding, and relies largely on controversial carbon capture technology, which some argue are an expensive, fruitless exercise.  It would also endorse the continued use of fossil fuels, damaging the trajectory and progress being made in phasing out oil and gas, which has been allocated substantial funding by the strategy. 

‘Powering Up Britain’ is a 30-page document detailing new energy commitments, including offshore wind, nuclear and green hydrogen, with some of them not new, having already been announced outside of the strategy. 

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is considered controversial because it would endorse the continued use of fossil fuels, damaging the trajectory and progress being made in phasing out oil and gas, which has been allocated substantial funding by the strategy.  

Dr Peter Connor, of University of Exeter, said, “Easily the best funded plank of this policy initiative is Carbon Capture and Storage, £20bn for a technology which has previously proved to be great at sucking in money with little to show in terms of large-scale reduction of carbon entering the atmosphere. This is a commitment to maintaining the status quo of burning fossil fuels.” 

The pledge to insulate houses to make them more energy efficient were labelled as inadequate by scientists. 

“300,000 homes to retrofit is laughably limited given how big the challenge is of the UK’s leaky homes,” said University of Manchester, Professor of International and Climate Change Politics, Mr Paterson.  

Katie de Kauwe, a lawyer with Friends of the Earth, said “Under the Climate Change Act, sections 13 and 14 do require plans and policies to enable upcoming carbon budgets to be met…So this isn’t just some sort of wishy-washy requirement. This is something that is hard-edged.” 

The strategy also does not address the ongoing oil and gas licensing in the North Sea. 

To the question of whether the strategy was a misguided effort to keep up with the US and EU, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt responded, “We are not going toe-to-toe with our friends and allies in some distortive global subsidy race. With the threat of protectionism creeping its way back into the world economy, the long-term solution is not subsidy but security.” 

Sky News reported that “some companies have already said they are considering withdrawing from the UK to focus on projects in the US because of multi-billion dollar tax incentives unveiled by President Joe Biden, and others have ‘warned they need a level playing field to compete on the world stage’”.  

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