Tory ministers were tonight dealt a High Court defeat over their Net Zero plan – just as a dangerous heatwave sweeps the UK.
Groups including Friends of the Earth partially won a challenge against the government in what they called a “landmark” victory.
The fight was about the way Tory ministers drew up “carbon budges” to reach Net Zero emissions by 2050.
Mr Justice Holgate ruled the challenge partially succeeded on the first of three grounds – saying Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department ministers failed to properly consider how much each policy would contribute to meeting carbon budgets.
Although officials carried out “extensive” analysis, this information was not included in a briefing for the purposes of signing off the plan.
The campaigners also “substantially” succeeded on their second ground, that a report to Parliament was not detailed enough in showing exactly how much each policy will contribute to meeting carbon budgets.
The claim failed on the third ground, that a ruling in the campaigners’ favour would better protect human rights.
The court ordered Tory ministers to lay a fresh, more detailed report before Parliament by March 2023 showing how climate goals will be met.
The government was told to pay claimants’ costs and was refused permission to appeal because it would not have a “real prospect of success”.
Friends of the Earth lawyer Katie de Kauwe said: “This landmark ruling is a huge victory for climate justice and government transparency.
“It shows that the Climate Change Act is a piece of legislation which has teeth, and can, if necessary, be enforced through our court system if the government does not comply with its legal duties.”
Sam Hunter Jones, senior lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “This decision is a breakthrough moment in the fight against climate delay and inaction. It forces the Government to put in place climate plans that will actually address the crisis.”
Jolyon Maugham, Director of Good Law Project said: “The illegality of its flagship climate change strategy is a huge political embarrassment to the Government. The Net Zero target must be a road map to a sustainable future – not a lie we tell our children.”
A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said: “The Net Zero Strategy remains government policy and has not been quashed. The judge made no criticism about the substance of our plans which are well on track and, in fact, the claimants themselves described them as ‘laudable’ during the proceedings.”