Packham’s legal challenge over climate

Boilers, Environmental Policies, Fossil fuels, Green energy

Chris Packham’s legal challenge over climate retreats is the latest action against the UK government. The broadcaster and environmental campaigner has filed a High Court challenge against Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to weaken key climate policies. Packham has applied for a judicial review of the government’s decision to ditch the timetable for phasing out petrol- and diesel-powered cars and vans, gas boilers, off-grid fossil fuel domestic heating and minimum energy ratings for homes.

In September, Sunak said among changes, he would set back the ban on selling new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 to 2035 and that 20 per cent of households will be exempt from a new gas boiler ban. Justifying his reversal, he argued that he does not want to burden ordinary people with the costs. However, many thought that the surprise government narrow win at the Uxbridge by election in July, which the Tories fought on opposing the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (not fundamentally a ‘net zero policy), might be a way of reversing their low standing in the polls. Since then Sunak has talked about making government’s actions on climate change should be “proportionate and pragmatic”.

Maybe he thinks that making ‘net zero’ a general election issue could improve his chances of avoiding the heavy defeat that currently seems to be on the cards. Meanwhile, Chris Packham’s legal challenge is based on the belief that the prime minister does not have the legal right to change the timing of carbon budget pledges, since the implementation of the delivery plan is governed by law. The grounds for his judicial review include obligations under various sections of the Climate Change Act 2008, he said. The legal challenge also alleges that there was a failure to consult on the changes, particularly a failure to take into account ongoing consultations about off-grid heating and minimum energy efficiency in rental properties.

Rowan Smith, a solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “If the government’s lawyers are correct, then the secretary of state would have carte blanche to rip up climate change policy at the drop of the hat, without any repercussions whatsoever. “That’s why this legal challenge is so important: if successful, it will mean that the secretary of state has to keep to their promises to have in place policies that will enable carbon budgets to be met.

It will also strengthen the work of group’s such as ACE Settle, who are working hard to create local sustainable energy initiatives that support the UK’s drive to net zero.

The Department for Energy, Security and Net Zero rejects Chris Packham’s legal challenge and will robustly defend the claim.