UK High Court Refuses to Set Carbon Targets


ITV reports Environmental campaigners lose High Court battle over carbon target. Excerpts in italics below with my bolds.

Environmental campaigners have lost their High Court challenge against the Government over its policy for tackling climate change.

Charity Plan B Earth brought legal action against the Government’s stance on the 2050 carbon target, set under the Climate Change Act 2008.

The charity and 11 UK citizens aged nine to 79 – including publisher Dame Carmen Callil – wanted to bring a judicial review against Business Secretary Greg Clark over the policy.

But Mr Justice Supperstone rejected Plan B Earth’s case on Friday, saying it was “unarguable”.

Lawyers for the charity previously argued the Government should have, in light of the current scientific consensus, gone further than its original target of reducing carbon levels by 2050 to 80% of those present in 1990.

They said the decision not to amend the 2050 target put the UK in breach of its international obligations under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and was influenced by the Government’s belief that a “more ambitious target was not feasible”.

At a hearing on July 4, Jonathan Crow QC told the court: “The Secretary of State’s belief that he needs to have regard to what is feasible, rather than what is necessary, betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the scheme of the 2008 Act and must be quashed.

“All of the individual claimants are deeply concerned about climate change.”

The barrister argued the Secretary of State’s “continuing refusal” to amend the 2050 target means the UK is playing “Russian roulette with two bullets, instead of one”.

But, refusing permission for a full hearing, Mr Justice Supperstone said Plan B Earth’s arguments were based on an “incorrect interpretation” of the Paris Agreement.

He said: “In my view the Secretary of State was plainly entitled … to refuse to change the 2050 target at the present time.

“I do not consider it arguable that the Secretary of State’s refusal to amend the 2050 target is an unlawful exercise of his discretion.”

Plan B Earth director Tim Crosland said the charity was “surprised and disappointed” by the ruling and plans to appeal.

He said: “We consider it clear and widely accepted that the current carbon target is not compatible with the Paris Agreement.

“Neither the Government nor the Committee on Climate Change suggested during our correspondence with them prior to the claim that the target was compatible.

“Indeed, it was only in January of this year that the Committee published a report accepting that the Paris Agreement was ‘likely to require’ a more ambitious 2050 target.

“Moreover the Government acknowledged in these proceedings that it was uncontroversial’ that the 2050 target was insufficient to meet the 1.5C target, one of the key aspects of the Paris commitment.

“As with other legal campaigns confronting powerful vested interests it takes time to break through, and time is not on our side.

“We’ll be doing everything possible to accelerate the process. Wildfires raging in the Arctic Circle must surely be a wake-up call.”

Regarding wildfires in the Arctic, I recommend he read my post Arctic Hockey Stick Extends Lead


  1. manicbeancounter · July 20, 2018

    Another group of political activists try to dictate Government Policy through the Courts and lose.
    What I find interesting is that only the point that a lawyer from Plan B makes for contradicting Mr Justice Supperstone’s statement that “Plan B Earth’s arguments were based on an “incorrect interpretation” of the Paris Agreement” is with reference to a report by the UK Committee on Climate Change. In other words, rather than directly going to the Paris Agreement, a lawyer uses a partisan secondary interpretation.
    My interpretation of the Paris Agreement is that it tries to reconcile the desire to reduce global emissions with the political realities that (a) developing countries do not want to sacrifice economic growth to cut emissions (b) Many countries – Russia, Middle Eastern countries – are economically reliant on the production of fossil fuels. Empirically to be on the 1.5°C emissions pathway in 2030 would require Developed Countries to collectively reduce the their emissions to zero in little more than a decade.


    • Ron Clutz · July 20, 2018

      Indeed manic, the 1.5C goal was aspirational, not an international contract. And even the 80% UK goal legislated in 2008 is unrealistic in real not massaged numbers. Not to mention any connection between emissions and temperature is hypothetical. At least the judge recognized the folly of becoming a policymaker.


      • manicbeancounter · July 20, 2018

        Although the 80% reduction is unrealistic, the Climate Change Committee still believes it can be done.
        Since 2005, UK emissions are down 43%. However reading recent report from the CCC, it is quite clear that the law of diminishing returns is setting in. Most of the reductions have come from closing down coal-fired power stations and replacing with bird choppers, backed by gas. Future reductions will come from banning petrol & diesel cars, along with making foreign holidays unaffordable and replacing old large houses with eco-boxes and yurts. Only planning regulations will mean very slow progress on housing.
        See Paul Matthews’ post at Cliscep.


  2. manicbeancounter · July 20, 2018

    Have you done anything on how the 1.5°C or 2.0°C emissions targets are calculated?
    These targets are relative to temperature rise from 1870. The IPCC assumes that a doubling of CO2 will eventually lead to a 3°C rise in temperatures. A rise from 280ppm to 396ppm will lead to 1.5°C of warming.
    It can be argued that
    (a) CO2 is only about 75% of GHG emissions in CO2 units.
    (b) A good part of pre-1950 warming was not due to rising GHGs
    (c) Excluding the recent natural El Nino event, there has been only 0.8°C of warming so far.
    Therefore not only has 1.5°C of warming passed, but likely 2.0°C as well. As least as much warming is yet to be revealed as has been measured by the thermometers.


    • Ron Clutz · July 20, 2018

      manic, AFAIK, IPCC claims that keeping CO2 below 450 ppm translates into limiting rising temperatures to 2C. This fiction shifts the focus from temperatures to atmospheric CO2 and the exercise of accounting for emissions. Again, there is the confounding factor of natural sources of GHGs. A dog’s breakfast for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • manicbeancounter · July 20, 2018

        If it is an emissions accounting exercise, let us crunch some numbers. You are broadly right on CO2 levels translating into 2C of warming if ECS = 3 for a rise from 280ppm.
        More precisely the equation is
        ΔTCO2 = λΔF = λ x 5.35 x ln(BCO2/ACO2)
        Where A = CO2 level in year A, and B = CO2 level in year B.
        I use λ = .809, so that if B = 2A ΔTCO2 = 3.00
        At 390ppm (2010 levels) you get 1.43C of warming.
        2C comes in at 444ppm.
        But lets assume 1.4C of warming for 390ppm and 2C of warming at 450ppm.
        Reaching full ECS is a long, variable time period. Given 0.8C of warming to 2010 “warming-in-progress” at the AR5 cut-off date is 0.6C.
        From page 33 of a presentation to be found of on the bottom right of the IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report website is the following graphic.

        1900GtCO2 raised CO2 levels by 110ppm (390-110). 1ppm = 17.3 GtCO2
        1000GtCO2 will raise CO2 levels by 60ppm (450-390). 1ppm = 16.7 GtCO2
        Given the obvious roundings, the numbers fall out quite nicely.
        Last year I divided CDIAC CO2 emissions by Mauna Loa CO2 rise to produce the following.

        17GtCO2 for a 1ppm rise is about right for the last 50 years,

        But how on earth do the IPCC say that to get 1.5C of warming “we” (that is nearly 200 countries collectively) can emit over half the emissions of getting to 2C of warming?
        I can take a guess. From 0.8C (actual to 2010) to 2C is 1.2C. From 0.8C to 1.5C is 0.7C.
        1000 * 0.7/1.2 = 580. I think the central figure is 630GtCO2.

        It falls out quite nicely if one ignores
        – Warming-in-progress
        – Other GHG emissions (CO2 is about 75% of the total)
        – Other causes of the 0.8C warming. The warming from 1910-1940 cannot all be explained by rises in GHG levels if ECS=3.

        Of course it becomes more complex if you look at the full breakdown of estimates on table 6.3 from IPCC AR5 WG3 Chapter 6 p.431 (or the summary table in the Synthesis Report). However, the general picture is consistent.
        Or have I gone wrong somewhere?


      • Ron Clutz · July 21, 2018

        Thanks for doing the math, manic, You truly deserve your bean counter handle.
        In a way it is genius by the global governance people. Just 2 assumptions are required:
        1. CO2 must be limited to 450 ppm.
        2. 50% of CO2 from burning FF stays in the atmosphere.
        From there it is purely math to dictate to every nation what emissions they are allowed.

        Liked by 1 person

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