Lawyers from an environmental charity have urged the council to set clear climate change plans or risk facing legal action.

Barnet is among 105 local authorities written to by lawyers from ClientEarth warning they could violate their legal obligations if “evidence-based carbon reduction targets” are not included in their updated planning policies.

The councils have been given eight weeks to explain how they will set these targets and ensure they are central to their new policies.

It comes amid mounting pressure on local authorities to help combat climate change, with many declaring climate emergencies as fears over global warming grow.

Councils are required by law to set targets based on the local potential to reduce emissions, in line with the Climate Change Act.

This Government legislation set a UK-wide target of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Councils’ targets should be included in new local plans, which Barnet and the other local authorities are currently in the process of drawing up.

ClientEarth climate lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said: “Too often climate change is perceived to be just a national or international issue and therefore solely the responsibility of central government.

“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.

“All of these decisions will ‘lock in’ an area’s future emissions and its resilience to climate change.”

Barnet Council said its local plan would provide a “clearly set out policy framework” to make London a net zero-carbon city by 2050.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The Government has set Barnet a challenging housing target – the second highest in England.

“Ensuring we get the right growth in the right locations at the right time is key to a successful and sustainable borough.

“This will be exemplified by Barnet’s emerging Local Plan, where health and quality of life will be overriding themes.

“As a London borough Barnet’s emerging Local Plan will provide a clearly set out policy framework to make London a net zero-carbon city by 2050.”

Councillors in Barnet recently debated a motion to declare a climate emergency, but the outcome left the official position open to a party-political dispute.

The council did not back a goal to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030 but stressed it was pursuing a number of climate-friendly policies.

Mr Hunter Jones added: “If local authorities fail to respond within the eight-week period, we will take that into account – alongside our assessment of their plan-making process – in deciding what further steps to take.

“Such steps could include making representations at the public examination of the plan and or litigation.”