Climate Action

Campaign group warns UK Government of ‘imminent’ legal action over plans for a green recovery

Campaign group Plan B has written a letter to Prime Minister and Chancellor warning legal action is imminent if stimulus package becomes a ‘New Deal for Polluters’.

  • 09 July 2020
  • Joana Costa Figueira

Campaign group Plan B has written a letter to Prime Minister and the Chancellor warning legal action is imminent if stimulus package becomes a ‘New Deal for Polluters’.  

On Tuesday, the climate litigation charity sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, threatening legal action if the proposed green recovery plans do not align with the government’s legal obligations under the Paris climate agreement and the UK’s own net zero emissions target.

Earlier this year, Plan B successfully challenged the government’s approval of Heathrow’s proposed third runway.

The letter comes as Sunak has set out £3bn towards the green economy which will “create thousands of green jobs and upgrade buildings,” the letter said. Another £1bn has been committed to “decarbonising public sector buildings and social housing”.

However, Plan B has said that the Chancellor’s package is “not a serious attempt to transition the economy” as it finds that “the same sum of money it appears the Government has decided to commit to a single fossil fuel project in Mozambique.”

Furthermore, the group finds that the amount proposed by the Chancellor is “less than the finance the Bank of England is providing just to airlines and car-makers.”

“The proposed approach is quite clearly unlawful…it is no more than a fig-leaf for the government’s new deal for polluters,” wrote Plan B in a letter before action, a legal first step that gives ministers a chance to reply before instigating formal legal proceedings.

The government has until the 17 July to respond to the letter. If no response is given by then, Plan B will take the next legal step.

The letter also threatens legal action against the Bank of England over its distribution of bailout funds.

In June, Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, co-wrote a piece in the Guardian titled: “The world must seize this opportunity to meet the climate challenge”, writing that the crisis presents “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” However, just a few weeks later, he appears to have changed his mind of how to combine responses to the coronavirus crisis and the climate emergency.

“His striking volte face implies he has been overruled,” says the letter. “Treating the climate emergency as a ‘competing priority’ to Covid recovery is a catastrophic error, which must be quickly corrected to avoid tragic consequences,” the letter said.

The group argue that the proposed coronavirus recovery plans risk locking the UK into a high carbon development path, as the proposed scheme pales in comparison to the government’s bailouts for carbon intensive firms.