Adaptation Domestic court European Convention on Human Rights Imminent risk Non-discrimination Private and family life Right to housing Right to life Right to property Sea-level rise The United Kingdom Vulnerability

R (Friends of the Earth Ltd, Kevin Jordan and Doug Paulley) v. Secretary of State for Environment, Road & Rural Affairs

On 17 October 2023, the reportedly first-ever domestic adaptation case was brought against the United Kingdom before its High Court of Justice. The plaintiffs in this pending case include Kevin Jordan, a homeowner from Norfolk (UK), who alleges that his home is acutely threatened by coastal erosion, with the road leading up to it having already collapsed into the sea. Jordan has brought his case together with the NGO Friends of the Earth and disability rights activist Doug Paulley, a care home resident who alleges that his health conditions are being exacerbated by climate-aggravated heatwaves. Together, the plaintiffs challenge the UK’s National Adaptation Programme (NAP). Domestic law requires the production of new NAP every five years, and the most recent version — NAP3 — was published in July 2023. The claimants argue that NAP3 is deficient for the following reasons:

  1. Failure to set sufficiently specific objectives;
  2. Failure to conduct and publish information on the assessment of the risks involved in implementing NAP3;
  3. Failure to consider the unequal impacts of NAP3 on protected groups (on the grounds of age, race and disability); and
  4. Violation of Articles 2, 8, 14 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the rights to life, respect for private and family life, non-discrimination and property, respectively), as enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998.

In regards to the alleged human rights violations, the plaintiffs invoke:

a. The well-established but urgent need for long-term policy and protected funding to enable care-homes (and similar healthcare settings) to adapt to excessive heat. This remains absent in NAP3 despite the increasing frequency and severity of annual heatwaves.
b. There being no new policy to manage overheating risks in existing health and social care buildings, such that they are properly refurbished as soon as reasonably practicable.
c. A lack of a commitment to provide adequate resources to support communities at imminent risk of being lost to erosion and flooding, including as to the established mental health and emotional wellbeing impacts for those affected.
d. Gaps, inconsistency and uncertainty in the potential allocation of funding provided for a range of areas, in particular for those communities that must (or are likely to have to) relocate and have their homes demolished.
e. There being no insurance or compensation schemes available for the worst affected by coastal erosion and who lose their homes.
f. No evidence of their being an express consideration, or reasoned analysis, of what a fair balance to strike would be between doing more to safeguard the human rights of vulnerable people and the interests of wider society. (emphasis added)

More information:
See the press release here, and the information document obtained by ClimateCaseChart here.

For reporting on the case, see the Guardian.

Suggested citation:
High Court of Justice for England and Wales, R (Friends of the Earth Ltd, Kevin Jordan and Doug Paulley) v. Secretary of State for Environment, Road & Rural Affairs, filed on 17 October 2023.

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