West Suffolk Council’s Toggam solar farm. Image: West Suffolk Council

Implement “proper” climate change plans or risk facing legal challenge, environmental lawyers have warned 100 councils across England.

The councils – all of which are currently developing a new local plan – have been put on notice by environmental law firm ClientEarth, giving them eight weeks to explain how evidence-based carbon reduction targets will be set and how they will ensure those targets will be central to new planning policy.

The campaign was launched in light of the “massive” shortfall in compliant local planning policy across the country and to advise local authorities of their legal duties, ClientEarth said.

However, many councils in the UK have declared climate emergencies in recent months, with solar becoming a key component in several council’s plans to tackle climate change.

Last month alone, Wokingham Borough Council pledged to install solar on schools, Northumberland County Council announced an 800kW solar carport with battery storage and a 12.4MW solar farm owned by West Suffolk Council smashed its generation targets, earning the council £100,000 more than expected.

Earlier in the year, Ashford Borough Council announced a 9MW solar farm set to be built on council land and Bristol City Council revealed it had hit its climate targets two years early, with energy production from its 4.2MW solar farm hitting a record high.

However, Sam Hunter Jones, climate lawyer at ClientEarth, said climate change is “too often” perceived to be a national or international issue and therefore the responsibility of central government over local authorities.

“There is a collective failure by local authorities across England to plan adequately for climate change.

“Clearly central government needs to do more, as the recent Committee on Climate Change progress reports stress. Yet so many of the daily decisions around new and existing infrastructure – such as new buildings, roads and utilities – are made at the local level,” he continued.