Citizens sue Government for safe Climate Target

by Plan B + 11 citizens

Citizens sue Government for safe Climate Target

by Plan B + 11 citizens
Plan B + 11 citizens
Case Owner
The UK Government knows its carbon target for 2050 doesn’t align to science or its legal obligations, and that it’s not enough to keep us safe. So twelve of us (aged 9 to 79) are taking them to court.
on 03rd January 2018
pledged of £65,000 stretch target from 1016 pledges
Plan B + 11 citizens
Case Owner
The UK Government knows its carbon target for 2050 doesn’t align to science or its legal obligations, and that it’s not enough to keep us safe. So twelve of us (aged 9 to 79) are taking them to court.

Latest: Feb. 28, 2020

We Made History Together

Dear amazing friends and backers

Yesterday there was a big "No" to Heathrow and a big "Yes" to a safe climate future.

We made history together as the Court of Appeal ruled unanimous…

Read more

Who are we? 

We are the charity Plan B and a group of 11 concerned citizens aged between nine and 79. We are all worried about our futures. 

The case

Climate change represents the most significant threat of our time. Even with the current 1˚C of warming, hurricanes, drought, flooding and wildfires are gathering momentum, stoking conflict, driving mass displacement of people and destabilising our way of life. If we go much further, we risk crossing ‘tipping points’ in the climate system (such as Arctic meltdown and rainforest burn) with dire consequences for humanity and life on earth.

But if the Government acts now, there’s also an immense opportunity. An urgent transition to a new energy base will deliver millions of new jobs and businesses in clean technologies. 

The UK Government claims to "lead international action against climate change". In reality it's leading us and others only closer towards the brink - we want to change that and change it urgently.

More specifically the Government knows its 'carbon target' for 2050 doesn't match the science or its legal obligations. It knows it’s not enough to keep us safe. So we’re taking it to court.

The purposes of the Climate Change Act and the carbon target are:

(i) to avoid serious harm to human welfare, now and in the future, and

(ii) to implement the Government's international obligations.

The Government is acting contrary to those purposes, which is unlawful. We argue it is also irrational, based on an error of law and a breach of human rights.

What are we trying to achieve?

If successful, the case will prompt Greg Clark (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) to increase the ambition of the UK’s 2050 carbon target, in line with the Paris Agreement, helping to:

(i)  safeguard the future for people and life on earth

(ii) drive the investment and technical innovation needed to stay safe and to transition to a clean economy.

The case is part of a growing global movement to hold governments and corporates accountable for climate change through the Courts.

How much are we raising and why?

This is not a case for half measures - there's too much at stake. We need to raise £35,000 to cover the first stage of our legal costs.

We are represented by some of the country’s leading lawyers, including Bindmans and Jonathan Crow QC.

What is the next step in the case?

We have just filed our 'Grounds of Judicial Review' which starts the legal process. The Government responds in writing before the Court considers next steps.

This case affects all of us and we need your help. Please contribute and share the link as widely as you can.

And follow us on Facebook: @ThereIsAPlanB and Twitter: @PlanB_earth for regular updates on case progress.

Thank you!

WE ARE, PLAN B, a charity committed to holding governments and other to account for their contribution to climate change, and to supporting the emergence of a global movement of climate litigation.

WE ARE MHB, 9, Primary School Student

"I’m worried about climate change because I think it will make the world a bad place to live in when I grow up."

WE ARE Sebastien Kaye, 20, Human Geography and International Development Student

"If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates, we will reach catastrophic climate tipping points within my adult life."

WE ARE Maya Campbell, 21, Legal Researcher and Politics Student

"I wholeheartedly believe that a judicial review of the climate change target is in the best interests of the UK."

WE ARE Paris Palmano, 22, Humanitarian Worker and Student

"As I see it, the Government’s approach of delaying revision of the carbon target unfairly discriminates against the young."

WE ARE Lily Johnson, 31, Artist

"What I feel certain of, is that if we do not do whatever it takes, right now, in this present moment, it will be very clear to the next generation that we have betrayed them."

WE ARE Rose Nakandi, Health and Support Worker

"The UK government knows what it needs to do, so it should do it. If it is too difficult for the UK to honour its international obligations then how are poorer countries like Uganda going to do it?"

WE ARE William Hare, Lawyer, British Virgin Islands

"My house was destroyed by Irma, and even now much of Tortola is still without power and schools remain closed."

WE ARE Maya Doolub, 48, CEO and Founder of Small Sustainable Development Consulting Firm

"There is a serious risk that whole countries are going to disappear beneath the waves."

WE ARE Dr Jo-anne Veltman, 49, Children’s Doctor

"We know that climate change is the greatest public health threat this century and a threat multiplier for other global concerns, such as mass migration and conflict."

WE ARE Rabbi Jeffrey Newman, 75

"I do not want my grandchildren to live through the devastations that catastrophic climate change might cause throughout the world without attempting to do all I can."

WE ARE Dame Carmen Callil, 79, Publisher and Writer

"When I think of the childhood and excellent life I have had, I feel extremely strongly that an undamaged world will not be offered to my god children, or any other children."

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Update 18

Plan B + 11 citizens

Feb. 28, 2020

We Made History Together

Dear amazing friends and backers

Yesterday there was a big "No" to Heathrow and a big "Yes" to a safe climate future.

We made history together as the Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the Government's reckless plans to expand Heathrow Airport were unlawful because they had failed to take account of the Paris Agreement!

The judgement is now travelling around the world faster than a 747!

Here's what the New York Times had to say about the global implications of the ruling:

We've even got Greta tweeting about us!

Take a moment to enjoy the historic Court Order that prioritises people and planet over profit:

And here's the unanimous judgement of the Court of Appeal in full (the good bit starts at paragraph 184!):

None of this would have been possible without your support.

Thank you! And let's keep this going. The bell is now tolling on the carbon economy, loud and clear.

Plan B.Earth

Update 17

Plan B + 11 citizens

Feb. 21, 2020

Heathrow Judgement Day! Thursday, 27 February.

Dear Friends

Next Thursday, 27 February, it's the moment of truth on Heathrow!

The Court of Appeal will hand down its judgement: Was Chris Grayling, the sacked Transport, right to ignore the Paris Agreement temperature limit when approving plans for Heathrow expansion?

If the Court rules that he was wrong, and the largest infrastructure project in the country is stopped in its tracks because the Government failed to give proper consideration to the climate crisis, we will be hearing the sound of cracking in the global carbon economy. The implications will be huge, in the UK and beyond.

We don't yet no what time judgement will be delivered (although it's likely to be in the morning). We'll update you when we know. In the meantime please pencil in the date. It would be great to see you there.

If you can't make it in person, in view of the exceptional public interest in the case, the judgement will be live-streamed via the link here:



Love and Rage

Plan B

Update 16

Plan B + 11 citizens

Jan. 30, 2019

Court of Appeal refuses Appeal

Sadly, the Court of Appeal has rejected our appeal to have our case heard. That's now the end of the road for the appeal process. Given what's at stake (ie the future) it's deeply disappointing the courts have has not had the courage to hear our evidence, which is so strong.

Nevertheless, there’s no doubt the legal action has made an impact. Within a month of commencing legal proceedings, the Climate Change Committee had recommended a review of the 2050 carbon target in light of the Paris Agreement, which is what we had been urging, and the Government announced announced a review in April 2018. That review is now well underway, and it's vital that the Committee recommends a bold and ambitious target, that reflects the science and the climate emergency that we're facing. We'll be watching the outcome closely.

Thank you so much for your wonderful support, which has made this case possible!

While we did not get the legal outcome we were looking for, there's been a major change in the public and media conversation over the last year. With the backing of leading scientists, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, a mass movement of people, Extinction Rebellion, is rising up to demand that the Government is honest about the crisis we're facing and that it takes the necessary action to safeguard our future. Local governments around the country (including the Mayor of London) are acknowledging and facing up to the climate emergency. The spotlight of our legal action has been part of this and we must keep up the momentum!

Next week, on 5 February, at 9.15am, we're back at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London, to argue that our legal action against the expansion of Heathrow Airport should be live-streamed, so that everyone can witness the inconsistency between the Government's aviation and economic policy and its claims to climate leadership. Please join us there, to show the courts that people want transparency and open justice.

Best wishes,

Plan B + 11 Citizens

Update 15

Plan B + 11 citizens

Jan. 8, 2019

Support Open Justice for Heathrow

The legal challenges to the UK Government's reckless plans to expand Heathrow Airport have been described as the "iconic battleground against climate change". The model of "business-as-usual" growth is pitched against the scientific imperative to cut emissions urgently. It's now clear that the Government failed to assess Heathrow expansion against the Paris limit. Unbelievably the Government appears to be denying that the Paris limit is government policy:

"the Claimant is wrong to assert that “Government policy […] is to limit warming to the more stringent standard of 1.5˚C and “well below” 2˚C””. 

Yet, as things stand only the 100 or so people who can cram into Court 76 of the UK High Court will be able to follow the trial of our lives and our futures. It's 2019 and that doesn't make sense! Please support Friends of the Earth's and Plan B's application for have the proceedings live-streamed by taking 5 seconds to:

1) sign and share the form below:

2) Retweeting this tweet:

It's your case and you should be able to follow it! #OpenJustice

Thank you.

Plan B

Update 14

Plan B + 11 citizens

Nov. 15, 2018


Dear Friends

We're making progress in holding the Government to account, but we can't afford to let up.

Please help us fight the runway to runaway climate change by:

1) Making a small contribution to our new campaign; and

2) Sharing the link:

Best wishes and thank you so much! 

Plan B.

Update 13

Plan B + 11 citizens

Nov. 12, 2018

New campaign: Thursday, 7.30am

Dear Supporters

Thanks to your help, we are making real progress.

Within a month of beginning our legal action in December 2017, the Government's advisers recommended a review of its climate change targets to align them to the Paris Agreement.

On 15 October 2018, the Government formally commissioned a review. The tasking, however, implied a lengthy delay. We wrote to the Energy Minister on 26 October, threatening further legal action:

Last Thursday, the Energy Minister, Claire Perry, responded to Plan B,  confirming that the CCC could recommend changes to take place as soon as possible:

As noted by the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Alan Whitehead MP, the pressure of legal action is forcing the Government to do the right thing:

But none of this will matter if the Government's plans to expand Heathrow Airport proceed. We need to reduce emissions urgently not increase them. 

That's why on Thursday we're starting a new crowd-fund campaign in support of our legal challenge to these reckless plans. The campaign goes live from 7.30am, here:

Success depends upon building early momentum (no-one likes to contribute to an empty pot), so please get behind us if you can:

a) with a contribution; and 

b) by sharing the link.

Thank you so much! As a small charity, we couldn't hope to do this without you.

Best wishes,

Plan B

Update 12

Plan B + 11 citizens

Oct. 1, 2018

No news on Appeal. #NoToHeathrow

Dear Supporters

Still no news from the Court of Appeal. Our solicitors advise that it's running a backlog, and we'll be lucky to hear from them this calendar year.

Meanwhile in considering the case for Heathrow expansion the Government appears to have conveniently forgotten its April commitment to reviewing its climate targets to align them to the Paris Agreement. The Committee on Climate Change has advised it that expanding Heathrow would challenge the viability of even its current targets. Which means it would almost certainly preclude the more ambitious target that would be consistent with the UK making a fair contribution to avoiding climate collapse.

So we've started another legal claim against the Government's plans for Heathrow expansion (along with others, including the Mayor of London and Friends of the Earth) and are back in Court this Thursday. The Court will determine whether some or all of the claims go to a full hearing.

Please join us for the solidarity event outside court from 9am, when we'll be joined by speakers including Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party:

Best wishes,

Plan B

Update 11

Plan B + 11 citizens

July 26, 2018

Appeal filed with the Court of Appeal!

Thanks to your support and the dedication of the awesome efforts of our legal team we've today safely filed our appeal to the Court of Appeal within the 7 day time-limit. It feels like we're back in business!

If you can handle the legalese you can see our arguments here:

We think they're looking pretty good!

The Government has 14 days to respond.

Best wishes,

Plan B + 11 Citizens

Update 10

Plan B + 11 citizens

July 23, 2018

Judge blocks our route to full hearing - please helps us appeal!

On Friday, Mr Justice Supperstone published his ruling. It was not the outcome we wanted. He's blocked our path to a full hearing and has done so on a surprising basis:

"I agree ... that the Committee's position was that the existing target is compatible with the Paris Agreement."

We consider it common ground and widely accepted that the existing target is not compatible with the Paris Agreement. That, after all, is why the Committee recommended a review of the target, stating that the Paris Agreement is 'likely to require' a more ambitious 2050 target.

We believe the Judge has got it wrong. Jonathan Crow QC has advised we have grounds for appeal.

This is a case that demands to be heard, however inconvenient and uncomfortable for some. Wildfires raging in the Arctic Circle must surely be a wake-up call. We need to raise funds for the costs of the appeal, so please continue to support us if you can.

Thank you and best wishes,

Plan B + 11 Citizens

Update 9

Plan B + 11 citizens

July 7, 2018

Judge postpones decision on our case

It was an amazing day last Wednesday. Thanks so much to all of you who came.

The court-room, the largest in the Royal Courts of Justice, was even more full this time. Dozens of people were sitting on the floor! We had a whole group of school-children who'd chosen to set off from Lowestoft at 5am to witness the demand for their future.

Jonathan Crow QC, Attorney General to HRH Prince of Wales, made compelling submissions on our behalf. Counsel for the Government was less focussed on addressing our main arguments, than emphasising that the Government has now committed to reviewing its targets. Jonathan pointed out that the Government has not actually yet commissioned a review, nor set terms of reference or a time-frame.

The argument seemed finely balanced. The judge, Mr Justice Supperstone, extended to court day to 5pm, and then postponed a decision. That's unusual for a permission hearing, but reflects the gravity and significance of the issues.

Bindmans, our solicitors, expect us to have the ruling within a fortnight, but can't be sure.

Here's some coverage from the BBC: "Court action to save young from climate bill"

And here's a Tweet from one of the journalists present in Court, describing how the case is putting 'huge pressure' on the government to increase its ambition:

All this is happening thanks to you. Please keep supporting us however you can!

Best wishes,

Plan B + 11

Update 8

Plan B + 11 citizens

June 29, 2018

Please Join Us At Court - The Time Is Now

Dear friends

In advance of our critical court hearing next Wednesday we would like to share with you two short films.

The first, by the filmmakers Stephanie Lenz and Charanpreet Khaira, charts the development of our legal action through the eyes of claimants at opposite ends of the age spectrum. It's called: The Time Is Now.

The second invites you to join us outside the Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand, London, from 09:00hrs on Wednesday 4 July:

We must join together if we're to make our politicians understand that their future is our future and our future is theirs. We hope to see you there.

Best wishes,

Plan B + 11

Update 7

Plan B + 11 citizens

June 9, 2018

4 July, Caroline Lucas and 'the mother of all court cases'

As we approach our critical hearing date on 4 July, Caroline Lucas has thrown her weight behind what's being described as 'the mother of all court hearings': 

Meanwhile the climate justice movement is gathering momentum around the world, and Plan B were recently interviewed by Al Jazeera about 'the People's Climate Case' against the EU: 

We have served a further statement on the Court to update it on significant new developments in support of our position arising since the last Court hearing on 20 March. More and more policy-makers, scientists and academics are joining our call for the Government to get serious on climate change:

Please show the Court, the press and the Government how much this matters to us all by joining us on 4 July from 9am, the Royal Court of Justice, the Strand, London.

Update 6

Plan B + 11 citizens

April 18, 2018

Government Commits to Review of its Climate Target

Today the future for us and our children is looking just a little bit brighter. And it's thanks to you.

Yesterday Claire Perry, the Minister for Climate Change, committed to a review of the UK long-term climate targets in light of the Paris Agreement and a forthcoming report on the impacts of 1.5˚C warming.

She did so with an announcement at the meeting of the 53 Commonwealth Heads of Government taking place in London. This is precisely what we've been urging - the UK Government to show leadership and to use its diplomatic influence positively. The announcement was welcomed by, among others, the Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji:

“I am encouraged by Britain’s undertaking to review its climate targets with a view to increasing ambition. The [targets] we all promised to make in the Paris agreement should be setting high standards for the rest of the world to follow.

Only a few months ago the Government was adamant that no such review was necessary. There's no question that the hundreds and hundreds of you supporting our legal action financially; the public messages of support; and the packed court-room on 20 March, have sent to the Government a powerful message - their future is our future and our future is theirs.

Of course the Government has not yet actually changed the target or brought it into line with the Paris Agreement. But under the Climate Change Act, a review from the Committee is the necessary first step. We'll be discussing with our legal team precisely what this means for our legal action and will provide a further update soon. 

But quite simply this is a hugely important and globally significant development, that would no have been possible without your support.

Best wishes,

Plan B + 11

Update 5

Plan B + 11 citizens

March 29, 2018

Our next day in Court: 4 July

Dear friends

We've got our next hearing date and it's a good one! 4 July (Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand London).

It's a historically resonant day to be running ground-breaking right to life arguments. On 4 July 1776 the US Declaration of Independence was signed, containing the first and most important political articulation of the principle:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed ... with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life ... "

We're listed for a full day's hearing, and this time we really do expect to get a ruling on whether the case proceeds to full trial. But who knows! We were also really expecting that last week.

Whatever happens it's going to be an important day. This is your case and it would be great so see you there!

Best wishes,

Plan B + 11

Update 4

Plan B + 11 citizens

March 21, 2018

Judge demands engagement from Climate Change Committee

Yesterday we had our first hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.

We were expecting a decision on whether the case should proceed to a full trial. One of our arguments is that the Government misunderstood the advice from the Committee on Climate Change: the Government claims the Committee advised it that greater ambition for the 2050 target wasn't feasible, but the Committee denies this.

For reasons best known to the Committee, it decided not to attend the hearing (despite the fact is an 'interested party"). The Judge was unimpressed and ordered the Committee to submit a response within 21 days. She also considered that, given the complexity and significance of the issues, the 2 hours set aside for the hearing would be insufficient. She adjourned the hearing for a full day in Court, that is likely to be some time in May.

On the one hand it's very good news that the Court is giving the matter proper scrutiny; on the other the adjournment substantially raises our costs, and we urgently need to raise more funds. Please help us by sharing information about the case on social media and encouraging 5 friends to contribute (and pledging again if you possibly can).

Yesterday the Guardian featured our case under the headline:

 "Can climate litigation save the world?"

The influential online magazine, Business Green, has written a report on yesterday's hearing:

"Climate Change Act: UK carbon targets legal action set to continue", with the byline:

"BREAKING: Judge adjourns permission hearing on crucial challenge to the government's long term emissions goals, as legal battle continues"

We are also honoured that James Hansen, the world renowned climate scientist, sent us a video message of support, saying that our case could have "a big impact on the whole global situation".

It would be tragic if we weren't able to progress because of financial constraints, so please, please help us carry on this essential process of holding the Government to account for its betrayal of its basic responsibilities.

Thank you so much for your support.

Plan B. Earth + 11

Update 3

Plan B + 11 citizens

March 20, 2018

Court hearing

We've got our first Court Hearing! 20th March 2018, Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand, London WC2A.

We need to persuade the Court that we have an arguable case, that merits a full hearing (this is called a 'permission hearing'). It could last anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Permission hearings are normally listed at 10:00 or 10:30hrs, but we won't know the precise time or Court number until the afternoon of 19th March. So we've decided to stage a 'solidarity' event outside the Court between 09:00 and 10:00 hrs.

We can't afford 3 Billboards, so we're going to have just 2. The first will read:


The second:


The original UK 2050 target derived from Aubrey Meyer's model of Contraction & Convergence ('C & C'). Indeed in 2008, the year of the UK Climate Change Act, a cross-party group of British MPs nominated Aubrey for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

Aubrey is also a musician and composer. We're honoured that he has agreed to play the violin outside Court in solidarity with our legal action. It's a way of making the point that our legal action aims to ensure the UK Climate Change Act fulfils its original purpose and intention, i.e. aligning UK emissions to the global climate obligation on the basis of transparent, equitable and replicable assumptions. We will also have music from ClimateKeys, and readings and statements from some of our supporters.

Hope to see some of you there!

Plan B. Earth + 11

Update 2

Plan B + 11 citizens

Feb. 19, 2018

Secretary of State and Committee in disagreement

There have been some surprising developments in our case. We have received written responses to our claim from both the Government and the advisory Committee on Climate Change. It turns out the Government's decision not to revise the 2050 target following the Paris Agreement was based on a misunderstanding. 

The Secretary of State, Greg Clark, says his decision was based on advice from the Committee that greater ambition was not 'feasible'. Bizarrely, he claims that aligning the target to science and the Paris Agreement, might set a bad example to other countries, by encouraging them to set 'unrealistic' goals. According to this logic, targeting climate catastrophe is exactly what we should be doing!

Meanwhile the Committee has explained that it did not advise that a more ambitious 2050 target was unfeasible, and that greater ambition for 2050 is in fact perfectly possible.

We imagined that given this direct conflict between Government and Committee we would be granted 'permission' for a full hearing 'on the papers' (i.e. without us even needing to go to Court). But that hasn't happened. So we now need to renew our application for permission with an oral application to the Court. Bindmans (our solicitors) estimate we may have a hearing in 6 weeks. We urgently need your help in reaching our stretch target of £65,000.

We are confident that permission will ultimately be granted. Simply by bringing the case, and forcing the Government to explain its position, we have unearthed that its decision not to revise the 2050 target was based on a simple mistake. Once the penny drops for the Court that that is what happened, it's going to be hard for them to say there's no need for a full review. "So what if the UK's plans for tackling the greatest threat facing humanity are based on a misunderstanding of its Committee's advice? Move on! Don't dwell on it!" There are no guarantees in Court. But it would be surprising if that's the conclusion they reach; and if they do we'll appeal them all the way!

Plan B. Earth + 11

Update 1

Plan B + 11 citizens

Jan. 10, 2017

Our case is progressing!

Thanks so much to the 700+ people who've backed our case with their 'hard-earned' and the 3,500 people who've shared our case page. Already that's a powerful statement that people understand what's at stake. Just by talking about the case and sharing the page people are helping to shine a spot-light on the most important challenge of our time.

Our claim was filed with the High Court on 8 December. On 3 January 2018 it was 'sealed' by the Court and has now been formally served on both Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (the Defendant) and the Committee on Climate Change (the interested party). Both now have three weeks to respond in writing.

A High Court Judge will then consider 'on the papers' whether there is an arguable case for granting the remedy that we seek (i.e. an appropriate revision to the carbon target). This is called the 'permission' stage of the process. We expect to have an initial decision on permission between February and early April.

We've agreed with the Government that our potential cost liability will be capped at £65,000. That's based on a potential liability of £5,000 for each of the 11 citizen co-claimants, and £10,000 for Plan B. £65,000 is therefore the total amount we now need to raise. Our solicitors and junior Counsel are acting on the basis of 'no win, low fee'. Assuming we're successful the funds will ensure they're appropriately remunerated.

Although the case is still at an early stage, already it's getting everyone talking about the government's inaction. See for example the links below:

"Ministers who fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions should face legal action, says former chief government scientist" (The Independent)

"Climate Litigation Needs to Become a Mass Movement"(Slate)

"Top doctors back legal action against Government on carbon emissions" (Daily Mail)

"Government taken to court over failure to deal with climate change(Friends of the Earth)

"We Need Not Be Spectators In the Climate Catastrophe" (Common Dreams)

"Why there’s a moral duty to sue our government over climate change" (Open Democracy UK).

Best wishes,

Plan B + 11

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