Hearing at the Court of Appeal over the Government’s failure to address emissions from meat & dairy

14th Jun 23 by Christina O'Sullivan

The ruling will significantly impact climate change policy

The hearing will take place on June 16 in Court Room 71 at 10:30am. Court room 71 is in the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL. As a high-profile and legally significant case, the hearing will be livestreamed here.

Our lawyers will argue in the Court of Appeal that the government’s failure to adopt measures to reduce meat and dairy production and consumption in its Food Strategy published in June 2022 was unlawful.

Livestock is  responsible for about 14.5% of global emissions and, if current trends continue, the global livestock industry will be using up almost half the world’s 1.5°C emissions budget by 2030. This means tackling emissions from the food and farming sector is key for the government to meet climate targets. The Net Zero Strategy expressly stated that the Food Strategy would outline how carbon budgets would be met regarding the food system.  However, the Food Strategy does not include policies for meat and dairy reduction, essentially the Food Strategy does not provide a  mechanism to fulfill its obligations under Section 13 of the Climate Change Act (CCC).

Both the independent review of the National Food Strategy written by Henry Dimbleby and commissioned by the government in 2019 and the CCC have identified substantial reductions in meat and dairy as essential to tackle climate change. The government failed to incorporate this advice, in particular the CCC’s recommendations, or explain why it opted to not adopt their expert recommendations, which the lawyers representing Feedback will further argue that they were bound to do.

In previous legal proceedings the government’s lawyers have sought to argue that the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the government department that drafted the Food Strategy, is not bound by Section 13 of the Climate Change Act. Instead, only the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), formerly the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is bound by the Section 13 obligations, as the government department tasked with achieving carbon budgets.

In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeal in this case will effectively rule on the scope of Section 13 of the Climate Change Act. The ruling will establish whether it is only the Secretary of State for DESNZ that must formulate policies to meet carbon budgets for his department, or whether other Secretaries of State and their respective departments are bound by the same obligation.

This ruling is therefore expected to have significant implications on the government’s climate policy. It will establish whether DEFRA must develop policies to meet carbon budgets, considering the CCC’s advice in doing so, in this instance in the Food Strategy. It will also establish whether other government departments, such as the Department for Transport (DfT), must equally put in place their own policies to reduce emissions to meet carbon budgets.


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