English Court rejects (again) a request to judicially review the UK Government’s climate change policies

Posted: February 27, 2022 by oldbrew in Accountability, climate, government, Legal

Scales of Justice
[image credit: Wikipedia]

Climate lawfare draws a blank again. Exactly as the verdict says, such claims “invite the Court to venture beyond its sphere of competence.”
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The High Court has refused a renewed application from Plan B and three UK students for permission to apply for judicial review of the UK Government’s alleged failures to meet its climate change commitments, says Freshfields BD, noting the “insuperable problem” of trying to establish that such failures also violated the Claimants’ human rights.

Nature of the complaint

In this latest challenge, the Claimants called for a declaration that the Government’s alleged failures to take effective measures to meet their climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement and the Climate Change Act 2008 were in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998.

They also sought a mandatory order that the Government urgently implements a framework to meet its commitments going forward.

In seeking these two remedies, the Claimants relied on a variety of evidence to allege the following four failures by the UK Government:

— failure to take practical and effective measures to align UK GHG emissions to the temperature limit in the Paris Agreement;
— failure to take practical and effective measures to adapt and prepare for the impacts of climate change;
— failure to take practical and effective measures to align UK financial flows to the temperature limit in the Paris Agreement; and
— failure to implement the “polluter pays” principle and a framework to provide fair compensation for those suffering climate change loss and damage whether in the UK or beyond.

Notwithstanding that the evidence relied upon (some of an expert or official nature) displayed explicit criticism of the Government’s climate change proposals, policies and programmes, the High Court declined to intervene on all grounds.

Findings of the High Court

In his judgment, the Hon. Mr Justice Bourne held that because certain climate change proposals, policies, and programmes had been made, it was sufficient to meet the Government’s statutory duties under the Climate Change Act. Disagreement with the merits of those proposals did not give rise to an arguable case.

Furthermore, he said such a claim “does not get off the ground” and noted that even Mr Crosland of Plan B described his reliance on the Climate Change Act as “half-hearted”.

As for the human rights-related complaints, the Claimants alleged a direct threat to life; respect for private and family life; and discrimination (ECHR Arts 2, 8 and 14) based on the Government’s alleged four climate change failures mentioned above.

The Hon. Mr Justice Bourne stressed the “insuperable problem” with such complaints where there was already a framework to combat climate change threats (i.e. the Climate Change Act).

He went on (quoting Lord Reed in R (SC) v Work and Pensions Secretary [2021] UKSC 26, [2021] 3 WLR) to say that in circumstances where that framework consists of high level economic and social measures involving complex and difficult judgments, “the constitutional separation between the Courts, Parliament and the executive should be respected”.

This approach, he felt, also “reflects the fact that the Court is not well equipped to form its own views on the matters in question”.

Ultimately, the difficulty with these types of claims, he found, is that they “invite the Court to venture beyond its sphere of competence.”

Full article here.

  1. Paul Vaughan says:

    I remember far more clearly now that debate of alternate or opposing views was the old way.
    The purpose of communication is quite different in present times of orthogonal perception.

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