December 4th 2023.
Chris Packham is taking the UK government to court. The renowned environmental campaigner and broadcaster has filed a High Court legal challenge against the government's decision to weaken climate policies.
The proposal to reduce climate policies includes plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars and vans, gas boilers, off-grid fossil fuel domestic heating, and minimum energy ratings for homes. This was included in the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan set before parliament in March. However, in September Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a number of delays in the proposed timeline. He delayed the ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, and said 20% of households would be exempt from the new gas boiler ban, citing costs for ordinary people.
Chris Packham, in response, wrote to Mr Sunak as well as the energy and transport secretaries to challenge the decision. He argued that the prime minister does not have the legal right to change the timeline of the pledges, as actioning the plan is governed by statute. After receiving no satisfactory response, Chris has gone ahead and filed a judicial review at the High Court.
Chris has long been a vocal advocate for protecting the environment. He has attended a number of protests and is a familiar face on our TV screens. The legal challenge cites the requirement to have plans in place to meet the budgets if the proposals and policies within them are altered. It also includes obligations under the Climate Change Act, and alleges there was a failure to consult on the changes to the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan.
Chris has been vocal in expressing his views, stating that “we are in a crisis which threatens the whole world, everything living is in danger, including all of us. We have the potential to reduce that threat, we have the solutions and we have plans and targets. We must not divert from these. To do so on a whim for short term political gain is reckless and betrays a disregard for the future security of the planet.”
He also argued that the emissions reductions from the vehicle and gas boiler policies are “intrinsically important to the UK’s ability to reach somewhere near its net zero commitments”.
Rowan Smith, a solicitor at Leigh Day, said that if the government’s lawyers are correct, then the secretary of state would have the ability to make changes without any repercussions. He believes that Chris and his supporters’ legal challenge is “so important” as it will mean that the secretary of state needs to keep their promises to have in place policies that will enable carbon budgets to be met.
Leigh Day has instructed barristers David Wolfe KC, Catherine Dobson and Toby Fisher for the legal challenge. This follows a successful legal challenge by Friends of the Earth that the 2021 sixth carbon budget did not include sufficient detail to demonstrate how the UK would reach net zero by 2050. The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has been approached for comment.
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