Government faces High Court challenge over ‘inadequate’ climate protection plans

The Government is facing a High Court challenge from campaigners who claim it has left the the country “completely under-prepared” for the impacts of climate change.

The case is being brought by an activist who lost his home due to coastal erosion, a disability campaigner whose health problems are exacerbated by severe heat, and environmental group Friends of the Earth.

A judge has granted a hearing in June on the case, which focuses on the Government’s national adaptation programme setting out action to cope with the impacts of climate change, including flooding, rising sea levels and severe heatwaves.

The campaigners argue the Government is failing to meet its obligations under the Climate Change Act to adapt the country to global warming, and that the failure breaches their human rights.

It comes after the European Court of Human Rights ruled countries must protect their citizens from the consequences of climate change in a decision that sided with a group of 2,000 Swiss women against their government.

In the UK, the Government’s latest national adaptation programme was recently criticised by the independent advisory Climate Change Committee as falling “far short” of what was needed.

Campaigner Kevin Jordan was made homeless shortly before Christmas 2023, after his house in Hemsby, Norfolk, was demolished after coastal erosion put it in severe danger of falling into the sea.

He said: “This country is completely under-prepared for the impacts of climate change, and the threat it poses to the homes, lives and livelihoods of thousands of people across the country.

“When I bought my house 14 years ago, I was told it would be safe for about another 100 years. It wasn’t.

“I may have lost my home to climate change, but the fight goes on.

“I hope this legal challenge forces the Government to draw up a more ambitious and effective climate adaptation plan that better protects us all.”

Disability activist Doug Paulley, who has health conditions which are being exacerbated by increasingly sweltering summer temperatures, warned disabled communities were “disproportionately affected” by climate change.

He said: “Climate change is a major threat to us all, but the Government must also recognise that disabled communities are disproportionately affected and often have additional support needs when a crisis hits.

“Many people like me who lived in a care home during the Covid pandemic will have experienced the fear and helplessness of feeling abandoned in a crisis.

“We mustn’t let this happen with climate change.”

And he urged: “The Government’s climate adaptation plan must be revised to better protect everyone, especially those in the most vulnerable situations, from the impacts of the growing climate crisis.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner Alison Dilworth said they were delighted the High Court had agreed to hear the case.

“The Government’s adaptation programme – which should be a plan to protect us all from the accelerating impacts of the climate crisis – is completely inadequate and puts people’s lives at risk.

“We know the most marginalised communities, including disabled people, are most at risk and largely excluded from planning and preparedness work.

“We hope our legal challenge will lead to a robust new plan that helps safeguard people, property and infrastructure from the consequences of a rapidly warming planet.”