Home > Uncategorized > Make Incineration Polluters Pay – Legal Challenge

Incinerators, unlike power stations and landfill operators, do not pay tax as a rubbish disposal route or as a major CO2 emitter.

No Incinerator 4 Horsham (Ni4H) and other Community Groups across the UK support Environmental Engineer and UNESCO Special Envoy for Youth & the Environment, Georgia Elliott-Smith’s legal challenge of the UK Government, over failure of the proposed UK Emissions Trading Scheme to uphold the Paris Agreement.

In 2019, the UK had 48 incinerators that poured 6.6 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere – that’s the same as all the homes, offices, transport & industry in Manchester and Birmingham put together. Based on the number of incinerators currently seeking planning, UK incineration capacity will double in the next few years.

As a result of Brexit, the UK government must rewrite many environmental policies, but incineration is excluded from the new UK Emissions Trading Scheme, a crucial way to manage and reduce CO2.

In 2016, the UK ratified the Paris Agreement, stating that they would take every opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions as fast as possible. This is a legally binding commitment and the basis on which the recent challenge against the Heathrow expansion was won by Georgia Elliot Smith’s QC David Wolf.

Georgia said: “The Committee on Climate Change, advisers to the UK government on carbon policy, has recommended that, in order to meet our Paris Agreement commitments and keep CO2 emissions well below the 2degC global warming target, carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology must be installed on waste incinerators at some point in future. Sounds reasonable, yet there exists no technology available at scale that is capable of removing CO2 emissions from incineration exhausts. A single pilot was undertaken in Norway this year, but the equipment is hugely expensive and a long way from wide scale roll-out. And without carbon targets or taxation there is no incentive to invest in this experimental technology.

And so, on 1st September 2020, my legal team filed papers in the High Court, challenging the UK government over the failure of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme to uphold our Paris Agreement commitments.

My case centres around three central grounds:

  1. That the government acted unlawfully and disregarded the Paris Agreement by excluding waste incineration from the UK ETS.
  2. That by providing far too many CO2 allowances (well above “business as usual” emissions), they are unlawfully failing to reduce industrial CO2 quickly enough.
  3. That the reason given for setting the emissions ceiling so high is unlawful, i.e. to maintain industrial competitiveness and soften the blow of Brexit. This is contrary to the Paris Agreement.

Our public hearing is on 1st December when the High Court will give permission to proceed. If permitted, the court date will be set for some point in the following weeks. I am represented by Leigh Day solicitors and David Wolf QC who successfully challenged the Heathrow expansion earlier this year, also on the basis of the Paris accord. I am crowdfunding for the legal fees through CrowdJustice and response from the public has been overwhelming.

By including incinerator operators in the UK ETS, they will be forced into a regime where emissions are accurately reported, managed, taxed and reduced over time. The economics will promote investment in alternatives such as recycling and reuse, investment in carbon capture and storage technology and, ideally, create a case for waste reduction.”

Further details of the legal challenge: