Individuals suing UK government for insufficient climate change preparation and response.
After purchasing his beachfront house in Hemsby, Norfolk, Kevin Jordan was assured that it would remain secure for 100 years. However, over the past ten years, 17 of his neighboring homes have either been torn down or washed away by the North Sea. Now, his own house is only 5 meters away from the rapidly eroding cliff and is cut off from road access due to a section of the road collapsing into the sea.
The residents of Hemsby have the potential to benefit from government policies aimed at addressing the climate crisis. As stated in the Climate Change Act of 2008, the government is obligated to create a national adaptation program every five years, outlining strategies to safeguard UK communities from the effects of extreme heat, flooding, and coastal erosion caused by the breakdown of the climate.
However, there are dissenters, including the Climate Change Committee (CCC), who are advisors to the government, stating that the government’s actions are insufficient. In a potentially precedent-setting case, Jordan is suing the government, claiming that their failure to establish legally binding “adaptation objectives” in their recent plan violates his human rights.
Jordan expressed that the road’s collapse has caused numerous difficulties, from accessing emergency services to basic tasks like garbage collection, grocery shopping, and receiving mail. It seems as though their area is being overlooked.
Doug Paulley, one of the claimants in the case, resides in a care facility located 200 miles from Wetherby, West Yorkshire. Due to his long-standing health issues, including autonomic dysfunction, diabetes, and heart problems, Doug is at a heightened risk for overheating.
Paulley stated that he had to stay indoors and limit his activities in order to cope with the intense heatwaves in the UK last year. The Health Security Agency reported 2,803 additional deaths during the summer of 2022, with individuals with health conditions, elderly individuals, and young children being particularly vulnerable.
The plan for adaptation does not include a comprehensive strategy for addressing heat-related risks in the social care industry, and it also does not allocate specific long-term funding for improving insulation and cooling in care homes.
“I am comfortable with just a T-shirt and trousers, even in below freezing temperatures. This shows how much I struggle with heat intolerance,” he stated. “As the world continues to warm up, it is becoming more challenging for someone with my complex health needs to manage.”
The most recent version of the national adaptation programme (NAP3) was released in July, following a report from the CCC to parliament four months prior. The previous plan, NAP2, was found to have adequate plans for only five out of 45 areas of adaptation.
Jordan and Paulley’s legal challenge, supported by Friends of the Earth, argues that NAP3 continues to fall short. They say it breaches the Climate Change Act by failing to set out lawful “adaptation objectives”, and by failing to consider and publish an assessment of the risks to delivery of the plans and policies included.
In a landmark case, it is alleged that the UK’s climate adaptation strategies are being challenged. The plaintiffs are also seeking a ruling that the deficiencies in the national plan violate Jordan and Paulley’s human rights by not adequately safeguarding their lives, homes, and possessions from predicted consequences of the climate emergency.
According to Friends of the Earth, Defra did not properly evaluate the unequal effects of NAP3 on protected groups as required by the Equality Act 2010 and the public sector equality duty.
The individuals making the claim have previously reached out to the secretary of the environment, Thérèse Coffey, to express their worries. However, her department has denied any illegal actions and has declined to share important documents. On October 17th, the claimants officially submitted their case to the high court.
Will Rundle, the head of legal at Friends of the Earth, said: “This year has set a string of new global temperature records which have driven deadly heatwaves and wildfires across the world, and last July the UK exceeded 40C for the first time ever.
Our government must take immediate measures to reduce emissions and implement reliable strategies to protect us from the severe weather and consequences of climate change that are already causing harm to people’s livelihoods. However, the current adaptation plan proposed by the government is insufficient and coincides with a reversal of the environmentally friendly policies necessary to address climate change.
“We are representing individuals who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the climate emergency. Our goal is for this lawsuit to result in more ambitious and successful strategies for adapting to climate change, with a focus on safeguarding all individuals, particularly those who are already disproportionately impacted by the crisis.”
The Guardian has reached out to Defra for a statement.