Environmental organisations have been highlighting the shortfall in the UK’s actions to achieve its national climate change commitment for some time. Now, a formal legal challenge has been lodged by ClientEarth under the UK’s Climate Change Act (CCA) – the first legislation in the world to legally commit a nation to binding emissions targets.

The CCA commits the UK to cutting its emissions in five yearly budgets so as to achieve the legally binding goal of 80% emissions reductions by 2050 – a target that is already not in line with a high chance of keeping global temperatures well below 2oC and nearer to 1.5oC, as set out in the Paris Agreement.

In its Mind the Gap report ClientEarth, a non-profit organisation of activist environmental lawyers based in London, contends that the Government has knowingly failed to enact policies that would bring the UK into compliance with the fourth carbon budget running from 2022-2027.

ClientEarth has also taken the UK Government to court for failing to address critical levels of air pollution. This is the second time since 2015 that the organisation has brought legal action against the Government over air quality, in its series of “Clean Air” challenges. Additionally, ClientEarth has recently issued complaints to the UK’s Financial Reporting Council’s Conduct Committee stating that SOCO International Plc and Cairn Energy Plc, which are major oil and gas companies based in London, have failed to make adequate disclosures about climate change.

These legal challenges in the UK mirror a wider trend in global climate litigation. Last week, Greenpeace and youth organisation Nature & Youth filed proceedings against the Norwegian Government, arguing that its recent decision to grant new oil exploration licences were inconsistent with the country’s climate commitments and constitution. And this week, over 450 Swiss pensioners submitted a legal petition to the Swiss Government, insisting on stronger action on climate change. Track 0 has been mapping these legal trends as part of its work on climate litigation. We will be holding a series of public and by-invitation-only events in Marrakesh at COP22,. Watch this space for details.

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