Government faces legal action over ‘out of date’ energy planning policy: Heathrow decision sets precedent

The government is facing legal action over its energy planning regime amid claims that current National Planning Statements for energy are no longer lawful now that the government has set a ‘Net Zero’ emissions target.

In a ‘letter before action’ on behalf of the Guardian’s George Monbiot, Ecotricity’s Dale Vince, and the Good Law Project, the complainants say that planning policy – which was last published in 2011 – is out of date on the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent reports, the Paris Agreement,  the UK Climate Change Committee’s advice, the decision to phase out coal by 2025 and the implications of leaving the EU and its Emissions Trading System, as well as the Net Zero target.

The claimants say that although the policy allows the disbenefit of carbon emissions to be taken into account, under the Energy Planning Statement that cannot outweigh a presumption in favour of energy supply projects. That means gas turbines and other fossil fuel-based projects get too easy a ride through planning.

The argument has been given impetus by the Court of Appeal’s decision on a new runway at Heathrow. The letter before action notes that in that case the Court found that “failing to take account of the Paris Agreement was an error of law in the approach taken by the Secretary of State” and “the Paris Agreement was “so obviously material” to the decision he had to make in deciding whether to designate the Airports National Policy Statement that it was irrational not to take it into account.”

The letter argues that the Climate Change Act 2008 is a far more obvious and straightforward change to the policy context and “it is now inescapable that the change to the policy framework demands that the Energy NPSs be reviewed.”

Read the full letter: Letter Before Claim Energy NPS

The action is being crowdfunded

Further reading

Ofgem sets out decarbonisation ‘Action Plan’ – but is it playing catch-up?

Supply chain companies blast government ‘fudge’ on net zero and call for radical action on local heat planning, building standards, time of use tariffs

Future Energy Scenarios: National Grid says Net Zero depends on major societal change

Drax expects to end coal burn in March 2021