Who is Chris Packham? BBC presenter in legal challenge against Government for weakening green policy

Wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham is threatening to sue the PM  (Andrew Matthews / PA)
Wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham is threatening to sue the PM (Andrew Matthews / PA)

Nature presenter and wildlife expert Chris Packham has filed a High Court legal challenge to the UK Government for a decision to weaken key climate policies.

Packham has applied for a judicial review of the Government’s decision to ditch the timetable for phasing out petrol- and diesel-powered cars and vans, gas boilers, off-grid fossil fuel domestic heating and minimum energy ratings for homes.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said it rejects Mr Packham’s claims and will “robustly” defend the challenge.

The measures and their schedule had been set out in the Government’s Carbon Budget Delivery Plan, which was put before Parliament in March this year.

In September, Rishi Sunak announced he would delay the ban on selling new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 to 2035 and that 20 per cent of households will be exempt from gas boiler plans among other changes, arguing that he does not want to burden ordinary people with the costs.

The delay will likely be detrimental to existing net-zero targets, and will have a negative impact on climate change and the environment.

Following the announcement, Mr Packham wrote to Mr Sunak, the Energy Secretary, and the Transport Secretary to challenge the decision, arguing that Mr Sunak does not have the legal right to change the timeline of carbon budget pledges at will, since the actioning of the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan is governed by statute.

Back in October, Packham confirmed that he was taking legal action in an impassioned speech that he shared on social media.

“Today I can share I’m challenging the PM on the legality of abandoning key Net Zero commitments I believe the timeline for the UK to meet Net Zero cannot be changed at will by the PM – I contend that he does not have the legal right. The ball is in your court, Prime Minister,” he wrote on social media.

Packham said that our decisions today will determine whether we can make a difference in protecting “our children, our grandchildren, and all life that lives on this planet”.

In the video, Packham explained why he believed that Sunak may have broken the law, explaining that no public consultation was taken before the net-zero targets were scaled back. He then laid out how he intends to take legal action if the PM doesn’t reverse his decision.

Who is Chris Packham?

Chris Packham is a BBC Springwatch presenter and TV environmentalist.

He is best known for his conservation work and is one of the founders of Wild Justice, a not-for-profit group purely funded by donations that takes legal challenges against the Government and its agencies.

He is outspoken in campaigning against HS2 — half of which was also scrapped by Sunak recently — and protested during COP26.

Packham gained an undergraduate degree from Southhampton University, where he read zoology.

In 2013, he was made an honorary Doctor of Science by the university.

What is Chris Packham famous for?

Chris Packham is well-known for his work as a television presenter, which began in 1986 with the Bafta-winning BBC1 children’s programme The Really Wild Show, and nature photograph series Wild Shots on Channel 4.

He also wrote and presented the BBC One series The X Creatures and BBC Two’s Hands on Nature and Nature’s Calendar, alongside a host of other BBC presenting gigs.

Since 2009, Packham has co-presented BBC Two nature programme Springwatch — along with Autumnwatch and Winterwatch.

Is Chris Packham vegan?

Packham took part in Veganuary in 2019 and subsequently decided to remain a vegan, following three decades of vegetarianism.

“I haven’t actually eaten meat for 30 years, although I occasionally ate fish and felt bad about it,” he wrote in the Guardian at the time. “Two years ago, I visited a modern British dairy farm, where the cows were kept in very clean conditions, indoors, all year round. I hated it. So I switched to oat milk, and last year gave up eating cheese.

“I’ve learned a lot over the last month,” he continued. “Years ago, I was accidentally given a vegan meal on an aircraft and it was terrible. But I’ve found it a complete untruth that vegan food is tasteless.

“I am not suggesting that we all go vegan overnight. Lots of people on social media told me they would go vegan three or four days a week. That, for me, is what Veganuary was all about.”

Why was Chris Packham in court?

In May 2023, Packham was awarded £90,000 in libel damages after a judge found that he had been subjected to an online ideological campaign accusing him of fraud and dishonesty.

Packham had sued in the High Court over articles published on the Country Squire Magazine website, which were found to mock his character, speech impediment, and Asperger’s syndrome, as well as accusing him of lying to raise funds for a charity of which he is a trustee.

Speaking outside the court afterward, Packham said: “I’d like to thank all of my followers for your unswerving support and belief in my honest crusade to make the world a better place for wildlife, people, and the environment; that’s what I get up in the morning to try and do,” he said. “I didn’t expect to find myself in court defending that but I have done so successfully.”

“Mr Packham did not commit any acts of fraud or dishonesty,” the judge said in his 58-page judgment.

“Mr Packham did not lie and each of his own statements was made with a genuine belief in its truth.

“There was no fraud of any type committed by him in making the fundraising statements.”

During the trial, Packham said he was a “victim of a campaign of vile and relentless intimidation”. In a 50-page witness statement, he said he had received criticism from people who shoot and foxhunt, and has received many threats.

The BBC presenter said his post has been repeatedly stolen, with “random dead animals and human faeces” posted to him.

He said: “I have been accustomed to the plethora of dead animals people leave at my home.”

In October 2021, he claimed “masked attackers” set fire to a car and burned down the gate to his home, with police believing arson was undertaken by paid professionals.

The 62-year-old also feared for his and his family’s safety and security.

Packham said the men had “repeatedly picked on and mocked my Asperger’s syndrome” as well as comparing him to Jimmy Savile.