On Tuesday 21 July, climate litigation charity Plan B issued a pre-action letter to the Government in which it sought to challenge the lawfulness of the UK's green recovery plans. The letter argues that the Government's Recovery Programme is inconsistent with its domestic and international legal obligations to address climate change. The letter provides the Government with 14 days to justify the legality of its use of public funds or it will proceed to court for a declaration that "the Recovery Programme must be consistent with the Government’s obligations under Climate Change Act 2008, the Paris Agreement and the Human Rights Act 1998" and asking the court to quash those elements of the Recovery Programme that are inconsistent with those obligations.
Plan B has previous form on such matters: it was Plan B that challenged the Government's expansion plans for Heathrow airport on the grounds of compatibility with Paris Agreement targets, with some success before the Court of Appeal.
This is part of a growing trend for climate campaigners and environmental groups to use legal routes, including but not limited to court action, to achieve the economic and societal changes that they argue are not forthcoming from politicians and the business community. This particular action challenges a significant political decision (how best to invest public funds to stimulate an economic recovery) but the private sector is also under scrutiny. 'Liability risk' from legal challenges are one of three climate change risks that Mark Carney, then Governor of the Bank of England, highlighted as a threat to financial stability in his 'tragedy of the horizon' speech back in 2015, and since then the risks of legal challenge have become even more apparent. Both the public sector and the private sector will need to give consideration to these risks as part of future decision-making.
Campaigners launch legal challenge against UK's green recovery plans