The legal NGO ClientEarth – who challenged the UK government’s inaction over air pollution in two high court cases – is now putting pressure on ministers to publish proposals for meeting carbon-emission targets.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Climate Change and Industry, Nick Hurd MP, ClientEarth lawyer Jonathan Church expressed concern that the deadline had been ‘incrementally pushed back’. The original date was December 2016 but is now at an unspecified time in 2017.

‘The act does not authorise indefinite delays’, it warns, asking the minister to respond with a revised date for the publication of a plan by 25 April 2017.

The 2006 Climate Change Act requires successive governments to keep within carbon budgets set at five-year intervals. Each budget is legally-binding to ensure emissions are reduced by at least 80 per cent by 2050, compared with levels during the 1990s.

The charity warns the government’s failure to introduce carbon-reduction policies risks missing the more ambitious fourth and fifth budgets, of 1,950 MtCo2e and 1,765 MtCo2e respectively, for the periods ending in 2027 and 2032.

The continued delay could also make a case for legal action. The 2006 act requires governments to publish proposals ‘as soon as is reasonably practical’ after the budgets are agreed.

ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton says on the group’s website, ‘The government is long overdue to bring forward an ambitious plan that will close the persistent and unlawful gap between legally binding carbon budgets and current plans and policies.

‘An ambitious plan will drive investment and deliver the UK’s climate change commitments.

‘If it continues to kick this can down the road, we will have no option but to consider legal action.’

A 2016 report ‘Meeting Carbon Budgets’ by the Committee on Climate Change revealed the fall in emissions since 2008 was driven mostly a reduction in coal-powered stations. To meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, the report added, bold and more far-reaching policies aimed at reducing carbon must be implemented across the agricultural, transport, building and industry sectors.

Words: Sid Hayns-Worthington


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