On 18th July 2022, the High Court ruled that the UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy was inadequate and breached the Climate Change Act. This landmark case was led by Client Earth, Friends of the Earth, and Good Law Project.
The lawsuit revealed a lack of transparency in the Government’s plans to meet the sixth carbon budget, which provides ministers with advice on the volume of greenhouse gases the UK can emit during the period 2033-2037. Parliament and the public had not been told about a 5% shortfall in meeting the target to cut emissions, with the policies in the Government’s Net Zero Strategy not adding up to the necessary reductions required to meet the sixth carbon budget.
The UK Government now has eight months to update its climate strategy and include how its policies will achieve its climate targets. This new plan should stand up to the scrutiny of the Climate Change Committee.
UK companies and local authorities need to be transparent
Currently, over 300 UK local authorities have already developed climate action plans and over 250 UK companies have set science-based targets. Despite this progress towards net zero, there have been challenges faced in both sectors.
Local authorities can only go so far in delivering net zero, because of limited powers, funding, and capacity within councils. They will need a clear net zero strategy from the Government to help them deliver ambitious action.
Even though many companies have set robust science-based targets, very few have published transition plans explaining what action they will take to achieve these ambitious goals. The UK Government has set up the Transition Plan Taskforce, which will issue detailed recommendations on transition plans later this year, and UK companies operating internationally may also face regulations in the EU, US, Canada, Singapore, and New Zealand. Scrutiny will not just come from regulators, as many large greenhouse gas emitting companies have already produced transition plans in response to pressure from their investors.
Last year, Shell faced a legal challenge to its own climate transition plan which, just like the High Court this week, found that its emissions reductions plans did not add up. The expectation for organisations and institutions to have plans which are coherent, credible, and aligned with climate science and business strategy has never been stronger.
Regulation is coming and organisations will be held accountable; action needs to happen now to be prepared.
Organisations now need to prepare the steps they will take to respond to the climate crisis – not only to respond to external expectations, but to ensure that their operations are ready for the inevitable shocks and changes which will come in the wake of the climate crisis. Responding now will also ensure they are well positioned to make the most of new opportunities that arise. Successful planning will not only just lead to a transition plan document that is compliant with regulations and make meaningful reductions in emissions, but it will also build a more resilient organisation.
What needs to happen now?
The gap needs to be closed between planning and implementation.
The extreme climate impacts we’ve seen around the world this year have brought home the urgency of action needed and given insight into why it is so necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. These impacts will also not be felt equally, for example, people of colour are four times more likely to live in areas at high risk from heatwaves. While climate impacts are worrying, it is clear that we still have an opportunity to mitigate and adapt to ensure people can thrive where they live and work. For this to happen, it will take more than a plan. There is a risk that if organisations take too long to decide on a climate action plan, there won’t be enough time to deliver on the set targets. Organisations should not wait to be pushed by regulations or stakeholders, they must work quickly to build achievable, sound strategies that deliver a global transition which is both equitable and inclusive.
The UK Government needs to help unlock the ambition of local authorities and companies. When investing in climate action we need to ensure we are uplifting the most vulnerable and marginalised communities to ensure they are not left behind. Plans need to consider the opportunity for both people and the planet.
How can Anthesis support your net zero transition?
Anthesis recognises the importance of rigorous, science-based pathways to achieve lofty net zero emissions goals. We work closely with companies, financial institutions and local authorities to apply climate action plans to their own net zero targets and climate strategies. Anthesis can support you to:
- Develop your emissions inventory and pathway using SCATTER. SCATTER is an online tool developed providing GHG emissions data and climate action planning functionalities for UK local authorities.
- Produce a climate action plan and monitor progress. Anthesis has worked with local authorities to produce robust plans and are developing tools to help councils transparently track their progress.
- Explore Area Based Insetting. Anthesis is working with 15+ local authorities to help drive action locally and provide financial incentives for investment.
- Establish a robust greenhouse gas inventory and set a science-based reduction target. Knowing where you are and where you’re headed is critical to guide your progress.
- Explore concrete actions you can implement to reduce emissions and meet your target by modelling a Net Zero Roadmap. This will be fundamental in establishing your Transition Plan.
- Understand your climate risks and how to manage them. Become better prepared to make climate disclosures following Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and UK Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR).