Friends of the Earth hailed a "landmark victory"  and "a huge victory for climate justice and government transparency" this week following a ruling by the High Court that the UK government's Net Zero Strategy breaches the government's obligations under the Climate Change Act.

Friends of the Earth were joined by Client Earth and The Good Law Project in bringing a legal challenge in the High Court against the  UK government's Net Zero Strategy

Mr Justice Holgate who presided over the case ruled that a report to Parliament by ministers was not detailed enough in showing how much each policy will contribute to meeting its carbon budget. 

In his judgement Mr Justice Holgate found that the Net Zero Strategy did not meet the government's obligations under the Climate Change Act which provides a legal obligation to produce detailed climate policies that show how the UK's legally binding carbon budgets will be met.

Mr Justice Holgate concluded that the Net Zero Strategy "lacked any quantitative assessment of the contributions expected to be made by individual policies to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions".

He ordered the Secretary of State to present to Parliament a report which complies with Section 14 of the Climate Change Act by no later than 31st March 2023.

Permission for the UK government to appeal the ruling was refused.

The ruling comes in a week when climate change is again at the forefront of the news with the Met Office issuing the first ever Red warning for exceptional heat in the the UK.  Europe, the US and much of the northern hemisphere are also facing  record breaking temperatures with wild fires raging across parts of Greece, France, Spain and Portugal.  Wild fires are also occurring in the UK with the  London Fire Brigade declaring  a major incident on 19th July as a number of fires broke out around the capital.   According to the Met Office climate change has already influenced the likelihood of temperature extremes in the UK with the chances of seeing 40 degree C days in the UK 10 times more likely than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence.  Ensuring that we achieve Net Zero not only in the UK but across the globe is more crucial than ever if we are to address the climate crisis.

However despite the UK government declaring that its Net Zero Strategy is a way of "leading the world in ending our contribution to climate change and turning it into the greatest opportunity for jobs and prosperity" even before the ruling in the High Court it had come under a lot of criticism for lacking a detailed plan on how to achieve Net Zero.  The Climate Change Committee that advises the UK government found that the Strategy had  "scant evidence of delivery against the high level target with policy gaps in key areas"

Whilst a recent poll found that there is wide public support for the implementation of climate policies there is concern that a new conservative leader may attempt to 'water down' the Net Zero Strategy despite the High Court's recent ruling.  

Ed Miliband shadow minister for climate change has already accused the Conservative leadership rivals of "running away" from the UK's pledge to curb carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.  Whilst this was denied by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps it is noted that  Alok Sharma cabinet minister and COP26 President has threatened to resign if the next prime minister fails to commit to net zero which could be interpreted as an expression of his concerns regarding a lack of commitment to achieving net zero by the Conservative leadership rivals.

We live in hope that the current unprecedented heatwave and all the risks that it has presented will really focus the mind of the UK government and in particular its new leader in ensuring its Net Zero Strategy is fit for purpose.