Revealed: Cabinet ministers warned of legal action over UK failure to tackle climate crisis | Emissions of greenhouse gases End-shutdown

Senior officials have warned cabinet ministers that they will face legal action for their catastrophic failure to develop policies to address climate change, according to secret documents obtained by the Observer.

The leaked reports from top mandarins, marked “officially confidential” and dated February 20 this year, make it clear that the government as a whole is far behind in explaining how it will reach its net-zero emissions targets and meet the requirements. legal duties to save the planet.

The restricted and highly confidential documents are another major embarrassment for Rishi Sunak, who originally planned to stay away from last November’s Cop27 climate summit in Egypt, but was embarrassed to attend after his predecessor Boris Johnson announced he would attend.

Sunak then declared that acting to reduce carbon emissions was a moral duty “because if we don’t act today, we risk leaving an increasingly desperate legacy for our children.”

Now, with just weeks to go before the crucial court deadline for the UK government to submit its latest climate plans, damning leaked documents make clear the government is failing in its legal policy obligations to match its rhetoric with action.

The documents say that, as a result of the apparent lack of policy, there is a growing “legal risk” facing the secretary of state for energy security and net zero, Grant Shapps, who is liable by law for failing to act. At one point, officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) claim that the fact that their own department has not developed policies to reduce carbon emissions “increases the legal risk in the DESNZ (Department of Security Energy and Net Zero) SoS (Shapps) if the reduced savings cannot be realized throughout the economy, which DESNZ has indicated will not be possible.”

The documents, distributed by Defra officials to other senior Whitehall figures, will put particular pressure on Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey, who was booed at a conference recently by farmers, who are already highly critical of the government’s agenda to post-Brexit agriculture.

The documents show that Coffey’s department is by far the worst offender in failing to develop a green policy, falling a staggering 24% behind its official target, while the transportation department is a gap “which considerably exceeds 5%”.

The documents show Coffey officials pleading with him to adopt an improved climate plan for the agricultural sector in a matter of weeks, not only to meet a legal deadline but also in response to stinging rebukes from government advisers on the climate change committee. (CCC).

They say: “The CCC has been calling on Defra to publish a decarbonization plan since 2018… The CCC has also criticized ‘glacial progress’ in reducing emissions from agriculture.”

The documents add: “It is likely that if we do not commit to a plan in response to the CCC’s recommendations, we will be singled out for further scrutiny by the CCC and other interested parties.”

Environmental groups say Coffey is nervous about sparking a larger anti-Tory rural riot if she announces policies that will force farmers to adopt greener forms of farming, such as imposing limits on the size of cattle herds, planting trees at large scale and reduce usage. of fossil fuel based fertilizers on farms.

Coffey’s difficulties highlight a central problem with the green agenda for a Conservative government, which draws much of its support from voters and rural communities, including farmers.

The top court ruled last year that, by the end of March 2023, ministers must publish their papers on how individual departments plan to get on track to meet net-zero climate targets and comply with the 2008 Climate Change Act.

As the statutory deadline approaches, all Whitehall departments are currently in the final stages of reviewing policies and counting carbon savings ahead of a new ‘Net Zero Growth Plan’ to be unveiled by the Prime Minister. next month. The Biden administration’s announcement of its Cut Inflation Act, with incentives for US manufacturers of cleantech, has heightened a sense of urgency in the UK that a green ‘industrial revolution’ could be missed.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC, told the Observer last night: “The CCC does not comment on the leaked documents, but in our last report we said that it is abundantly clear that Defra is not on track to deliver key climate policies. It is our statutory duty to highlight these failings to parliament, to help them in their scrutiny of government plans.

“Defra is unique in key Whitehall departments in not having a net zero strategy, which must cover critical aspects of agriculture, land use, nature and our critical food system. That is a huge gap as we We are approaching a critical period for the achievement of the UK’s statutory climate targets.”

he Observer understands that No 10, the Treasury and DESNZ are angry that Defra is dragging down all-of-government climate progress.

The government was contacted for comment but did not respond.

Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for net zero, trashed the Tories’ record on climate policy: “Years of failure in various departments; the ridiculous ban on onshore wind power is still in place; billions funneled to fossil fuel companies in tax breaks, instead of investing in local renewables; reduced investment in energy efficiency; and a refusal to follow President Biden’s lead in investing in the green industries of the future here in Britain. There are 13 years of failures that explain why this government is not a net zero leader but a lawbreaker.”

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