IT might look like a recipe for emissions reduction success, but “pie in the sky” is how Client Earth has described the UK net-zero strategy. This week, the environmental law charity announced that it was taking the Government to court over it.

Its complaint is that the strategy fails to include the policies needed to deliver promised cuts in emissions, and is thus a breach of “the Government’s legal duties” and amounts to “greenwashing”.

At the same time, Friends of the Earth filed a similar law suit.

So, how are we doing in the Net Zero pie-tasting championships? What pieces of the UK strategy pie are missing?

Quite a lot it, seems. As Client Earth and Friends of the Earth point out, the strategy, which was published in October last year, is low on policy detail and does not specify the cuts in emissions to be achieved in all of the sectors.

In other words, we don’t even know how big each slice of the emissions reduction pie is. And several slices there may indeed be, since they are based on speculative technologies like zero-carbon aviation fuels, and carbon capture and storage.

Can the Government really be taken to court over this?

Yes, Client Earth will argue the government breached its legal duty under sections 13 and 14 of the Climate Change Act 2008 to show that its plan will actually reduce emissions enough to meet carbon targets. They will also argue that it’s an infringement of the rights of young people since the Climate Change Act demands that “as far as possible” legislation must be compatible with right protected under the European Convention of Human Rights. Client Earth will argue that breaches of future carbon budgets would threaten young people’s right to life, protected under the Human Rights Act.

Do other experts agree that the strategy is inadequate?

The UK Climate Change Committee had some reservations. For instance, it noted that “the Government has not quantified the effect of each policy and proposal on emissions. So it is not clear how the mix of policies will deliver on its ambitions”.

Is it any more greenwashed than any other country’s plan?

No. It would be true to say that the UK strategy is not the most fanciful in the sky. When it was submitted in October, the Climate Change Committee said it was the most comprehensive among G20 countries.

Does the Government have much of a defence?

Policy expert Tim Lord suggested its defence might be the following: that “many policies are market led so hard to attribute precise savings to them”, “15 years is a long time” and that the plan “should flex as costs change”.

All sounds too half-baked given what’s at stake

Yes. No matter how you slice it.

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