Plan B Earth, a charity with the mission to realize the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, has filed a climate change lawsuit against the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (Secretary of State). Plan B Earth is joined in the lawsuit by 11 citizen claimants ranging in age from 9 to 79 who are impacted by climate change in a variety of ways. The claimants allege that the Secretary of State violated the Climate Change Act 2008 (the 2008 Act) and other law by failing to revise a 2050 carbon reduction target in light of new international law and scientific developments.
On December 8, 2017, the claimants filed a claim form and a document listing their grounds for judicial review at the High Court of Justice Administrative Court. They note that the 2008 Act set a carbon emissions reduction target for the year 2050 that is at least 80% lower than the aggregate total of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 (the 2050 target). This 2050 target was consistent with limiting average warming to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. The claimants argue that the Secretary of State should make the 2050 target more ambitious to reflect scientific developments since 2008 and the Paris Agreement’s intention to limit average warming to 1.5 degrees C. Under Section 2 of the 2008 Act, the Secretary of State has the authority to revise the target in light of scientific developments and international law.
Claimants present five grounds for seeking judicial review of the Secretary of State’s failure to revise the 2050 target: (1) it is ultra vires, because it frustrates the legislative purpose of the 2008 Act; (2) it is based on an error of law regarding the objective of the Paris Agreement; (3) it is irrational, because it fails to take into account and / or inappropriately weighs considerations including the risks of global climate change and predictions of future technical innovation; (4) it violates the Human Rights Act 1998; and (5) it breaches the public sector equality duty set out in Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
Claimants seek declaratory relief that the Secretary of State acted unlawfully in violation of his responsibilities under the 2008 Act and a “mandatory order that the Secretary of State revise the 2050 target in accordance with the purpose of the 2008 Act and the UK’s international law obligations, ensuring, at a minimum, that the 2050 target commits the UK to an equitable contribution the Paris Agreement objective and that it conforms to the precautionary principle.” They also seek what other relief the court deems appropriate and costs.