Monday, July 25, 2022

Good law to climate rescue

This might not be a planning case but the judgement could and should have profound implications for the land use planning system. In The Queen (on the application of (1) Friends of the Earth Limited(2) Client Earth (3) Good Law Project and Joanna Wheatley v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [2022] EWHC 1841 (Admin) the judge (who had a planning background) decided that the Government is legally obliged to explain how it intends to meet the carbon budgets set out by the Climate Change Committee and officially adopted. The Government has been reluctant to do this because a) it hasn’t a clue or b) it realizes that some of the necessary measures might not be popular with its voters? Two areas that the CCC had highlighted as requiring more attention were home energy and food and agriculture. The rate and extent to which the energy efficiency of houses will have to be improved to meet the 5th and 6th carbon budgets falls outside anything that the Communities or Business Departments have hitherto dared to suggest or offer meaningful financial support. The Government should view the judgement as a blessing in disguise as it can reasonably blame the Courts for any inconvenience caused in bringing the nation’s building stock up to a decent standard. All those involved in the operating the planning system should be considering if its actions are consistent with the carbon budgets. Being an arm of government the planning system must be seen to be operating in line with carbon reduction budgets (and not just the targets). Both candidates for the election of the next Prime Minister have confirmed support for the net zero target for 2050 and both have identified home insulation as a primary target (having been ministers in a Government that has been in dereliction of its duty in that regard since 2010). Congratulations to Client Earth, Friends of the Earth, Ms Wheatley and Good Earth Project for eliciting the help of the Courts in ensuring the planning system plays its (important) part in facilitating the transition to net zero. Zero carbon housing is most likely to involve a reduction in new building and increase in subdivisions (even custom-splitting – see many previous blogs). A zero carbon agriculture (see National Farmers Union net zero by 2040 target) might also need support from the planning system if not a change to the law to bring agricultural practices under control? (see previous blogs)

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