Targets, targets, targets. Climate change hots up.

 

Last year we reported on two judicial review challenges to government policy on climate change, one in the Netherlands, the other in the UK.

The Netherlands challenge brought by Urgenda resulted in an order that that the Netherlands State be ordered to achieve a reduction so that the cumulative volume of Netherlands greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced at least by 25%, by the end of 2020, relative to 1990 levels. The Netherlands State appealed against the order and the Dutch Supreme Court heard the case on 24 May 2019 and a judgment is expected over the summer.

The UK challenge was brought by Plan B and sought judicial review of the UK government’s decision not to amend the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act 2008 in the light of article 2(1) (a) the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which the UK has ratified, the parties commit to: “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” The challenge failed and leave to appeal was rejected earlier this year.

Since then the UK Committee on Climate Change, in line with the findings of the IPCC in October 2018, has recommended a new emissions target for the UK of net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050. The previous target was to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 (“the 2050 target”) is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline. This week a statutory instrument, the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019, was laid amending the Climate Change Act 2008 so that ‘80%’ is replaced by ‘100%’.

This is a ‘net’ figure, which allows for the ability to use international carbon credits to offset emissions within an appropriate monitoring, reporting and verification framework. In addition, under s.30(1) of the Act emissions from international aviation and shipping do not count as emissions from sources in the UK. The Government have said that they will review the ‘net zero’ target within 5 years to check that other countries are following suit, and, if not, reserve the right to revert to the original 80% target.

To stabilise at 1.5 degrees over pre industrial levels by 2100 the IPCC has stated that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere should not exceed 430 parts per million, and for stabilising at 2 degrees the levels should not exceed 450 per million. Last month a reading at a weather station in Hawaii recorded 415 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. The current annual rate of increase is in the order of 3 parts per million.

Published by

Professor Simon Baughen

Professor Simon Baughen was appointed as Professor of Shipping Law in September 2013 (previously Reader at the University of Bristol Law School). Simon Baughen studied law at Oxford and practised in maritime law for several years before joining academia. His research interests lie mainly in the field of shipping law, but also include the law of trusts and the environmental law implications of the activities of multinational corporations in the developing world. Simon's book on Shipping Law, has run to five editions and is already well-known to academics and students alike as by far the most learned and approachable work on the subject. Furthermore, he is now the author of the very well-established practitioner's work Summerskill on Laytime. He has an extensive list of publications to his name, including International Trade and the Protection of the Environment. He has also written and taught extensively on commercial law, trusts and environmental law. Simon will be a member of the Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law, a University Research Centre within the School of Law, and he will teach on both the LLM (Carriage of Goods by Sea, Land and Air and Oil and Gas Law) and LLB programmes at Swansea.

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