AN environmental campaigner from Northwich has launched a legal challenge against the UK government's decision to exclude municipal waste incinerators from its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Georgia Elliot-Smith, a former Weaverham High School pupil, who now lives in Enfield in North London, said the scheme, which will replace the existing EU Emissions Trading Scheme after the UK leaves the EU, was unlawful in excluding waste incinerators, such as the one in Lostock Gralam, which got the greenlight to increase its output by 50 per cent in July last year.

The application for judicial review also includes a challenge to the Government’s decision to roll forward carbon emissions allowances to future years, and to the setting of a cap on allowable emissions which will be above the level of “business as usual” emissions.

Ms Elliott-Smith, an industry expert and environmental consultant, is represented by Leigh Day solicitors who sent a pre action letter to the Government on her behalf.

She said: "The UK’s existing 48 municipal waste incinerators emit 6.6mt CO2 per year – more than Manchester and Birmingham put together.

"Their exclusion greatly impedes the UK’s efforts to achieve net zero carbon, especially since dozens more are currently under construction or awaiting planning consent.

"The government’s decision to omit MSW incinerators from the its ETS because they are “difficult” to include is a nonsense.

"Incineration does not pay for the burden that its pollution places on society and there is currently no requirement for operators to reduce carbon emissions.

"I hope that by bringing this action, we can reduce national CO2 emissions and stimulate alternative waste routes such as reduction, reuse and recycling."

The legal challenge says the scale of incinerator emissions ignored by the ETS is 'staggering' and 'there will be no mechanism to account for, offset, or incentivise the reduction of emissions from incinerators'.

It goes on to say, how the exclusion will also result in the UK failing in its obligations under the Paris Agreement and instead has concentrated on the need to achieve net zero by 2050.

For Ms Elliott-Smith, an interest and passion in caring for the environment stems from an expedition to Antarctica when she was studying environmental engineering more than 20 years ago.

She explained: "I then went on to be one of the fist environment managers in the construction industry in the UK.

"I've been passionate about it ever since, in particular about waste, with the construction industry itself being a huge source of it.

"I've spent so much of my career trying to solve problems around waste and why it is we waste so many of our resources."

"Over the years, I've just become more active and I'm now an activist with Extinction Rebellion and many local anti-incineration groups.

"I really hope this national action I'm bringing will help to boost all those local campaigns fighting incineration, including the ones in Cheshire."

Ms Elliot-Smith went on to say how incineration 'just isn't the answer' to the waste problem and was causing 'vast amounts' of pollution as well as 'destroying resources' and was being used 'because it is cheap'.

She added: "Government and waste disposer's are putting money ahead of peoples health.

"Particularly in a post-covid world, we really have to reassess the way in which we are polluting the environment."

With technology in existence that could see up to 80% of our waste being recycled Ms Elliot-Smith said she wants the government to take action and make the UK a leading example in the new green economy.

"This is a once in a lifetime moment", she said.

"We're the home of the industrial revolution and we should be the home of the green revolution too.

"As an advanced nation, we should be able to make financial and technical advancements that don't pollute the air and causes illness.

"The government has within its gift, the ability to regulate how much packaging is used and prevent the waste in the first place.

"That could be done really quickly, except there's just no political will to get on with it."

Rowan Smith, a Human Rights lawyer at Leigh Day Solicitors, the law firm representing Ms Elliot-Smith in the legal action, said:

"The Defendants have sought to argue that the net zero by 2050 commitment is co-extensive with the Paris Agreement. This is wrong in law.

"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made clear on numerous occasions that the Paris Agreement requires substantial emissions reductions to be made in the short term.

"Our client states that this cannot be achieved by excluding municipal waste incinerators from the emissions trading scheme. Rolling forward carbon emissions allowances to future years, and the setting of a cap on allowable emissions which will be above the level of existing emissions, also work against the fundamental requirements of the Paris Agreement.

"The excuse presented by the Government, that the scheme has been designed in this way to make Brexit easier, is not a lawful reason for ignoring international climate change commitments."

The papers are currently filed at the High Court in London, with Ms Elliot-Smith hoping for a date before Christmas for the hearing to be held.