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Chris Packham cleared to take government to High Court

TV presenter and campaigner Chris Packham has been given permission to challenge the Government over its decision to abandon statutory environmental commitments.

The legality of Rishi Sunak’s relinquishing of green policies will be determined in the high court later this year.

It was in September that the Government announced that its green targets risked bankrupting the nation and rowed back on a number of previous commitments and deadlines. 

Chris Packham subsequently wrote to the Prime Minister with his concerns and, having failed to receive a satisfactory reply, filed a High Court legal challenge. 

Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said at the time: ‘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. Chris and his supporters believe that would be an acute abuse of process, made even worse at the time of climate and ecological breakdown. 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.’

Today Packham was given the green light to argue three points in the high court. Leigh Day describe these as follows:

  1. The duty on the Government to have policies in place to ensure it can meet its commitments under the Climate Change Act is a continuing one. He will argue that it isn’t lawful for the Government to remove key policies from the CBDP, like the ZEV Policy and the Heat and Buildings Package, without having others in place to ensure the targets will still be met.
  2. When taking the decision to abandon the policies, the Government failed to take mandatory and relevant considerations into account, including the impact of the decision on the achievement of the carbon budgets and the net zero target and advice from the Climate Change Committee (CCC).
  3. There was a failure to consult the public and key stakeholders before abandoning the policies, and a failure to even consider previous consultation responses that the public and key stakeholders had made to Government questions about the policies to be abandoned.

Chris Packham said: ‘The pledges which the government abandoned were important parts of the UKs plan to reach Net Zero in order to ameliorate the effects of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss which threaten life on our planet. Notably they, unlike some of the other parts of that strategy, were actually quantifiable, they were directly measurable in terms of carbon management . To abandon them without having comparable quantifiable measures in place was reckless and dangerous. To abandon them without seeking qualified advice was undemocratic and arrogant. At this crisis point we need robust leadership that listens to best informed advice, not short termism and politicking.’

The High Court hearing will take place later this year.


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