UK Government Challenged Over Net-Zero Rollback

Jones Day


Jones Day is a global law firm with more than 2,500 lawyers across five continents. The Firm is distinguished by a singular tradition of client service; the mutual commitment to, and the seamless collaboration of, a true partnership; formidable legal talent across multiple disciplines and jurisdictions; and shared professional values that focus on client needs.
The UK government's decision to rollback and delay policy commitments designed to help achieve net zero by 2050 will be challenged in the High Court later this year.
UK Environment
To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on

The UK government's decision to rollback and delay policy commitments designed to help achieve net zero by 2050 will be challenged in the High Court later this year.

On March 4, 2024, the High Court granted television presenter and environmental advocate Chris Packham CBE permission to proceed with an application for judicial review of the UK government's decision to water down certain green policies.

The judicial review application, which was filed in fall 2023, follows Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's announcement in September 2023 that the government would be retreating from several key environmental commitments due to the cost implications on British families. The policies in the fire-lining included:

  • The transition to zero emission cars and vans by 2030;
  • The phasing out of new and replacement gas boilers by 2035;
  • A prohibition on installing fossil fuel heating in homes not connected to the gas grid from 2026; and
  • The requirement for all privately rented homes to attain an energy performance certificate rating of "C" for new tenancies from 2025 and all tenancies from 2028.

These policies, and the timetable for their implementation, were originally set out in the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan that was put before Parliament in March 2023. The claimant argues that retreating from these policies is unlawful, as the government has failed to consider the impact on achieving carbon reduction targets and neglected to consult the public and key stakeholders before announcing these policy changes.

Leave for judicial review was granted on three grounds:

  • Breach of the government's ongoing obligation under Section 13 of the Climate Change Act 2008 to have in place policies that will enable the carbon budgets to be met as well as achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The claimant will argue that removing or delaying key policies without implementing alternative measures to ensure targets are met is unlawful.
  • Failure to consider mandatory and relevant factors including the impact of the decision on the ability to achieve carbon budgets and the net-zero emissions target, and advice from the Climate Change Committee.
  • Failure to consult with the public and key stakeholders regarding the policy changes, and a disregard for previous consultation responses concerning the affected policies.

The government strongly rejects these claims and has confirmed that it will be robustly defending this legal challenge.

This judicial review lies in the wake of a successful challenge initiated by climate advocacy group, Friends of the Earth. The group demonstrated that the government's Net Zero Strategy lacked actionable detail and failed to outline a clear path for the UK to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, as mandated by the Climate Change Act 2008. This resulted in a revised Carbon Budget Delivery Plan being put before Parliament in March 2023.

It will now be for a High Court judge to determine whether the UK government acted lawfully in deciding to change the government's timetable to implement some of its green policies.

Read the full Climate Report.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

See More Popular Content From

Mondaq uses cookies on this website. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies as set out in our Privacy Policy.

Learn More