Future of UK fossil fuels at stake in test case – Fiat 2 Coins

Torch on oil fieldPicture supply, Getty Pictures

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The take a look at case might have implications for the way forward for fossil gasoline exploration within the UK

By Georgina Rannard

Local weather and science reporter

The newest step in a lady’s authorized struggle over a Surrey oil drilling allow has concluded.

Sarah Finch’s attorneys instructed the Supreme Courtroom that planning authorities ought to have thought of the local weather impacts of burning the oil, not simply extracting it.

Surrey County Council mentioned it adopted planning regulation.

The case might spell the tip of recent UK fossil fuels initiatives when judges attain a choice within the coming months.

The local weather impacts on the coronary heart of the case are ‘downstream emissions’ – the greenhouse fuel emissions launched when the oil will probably be burned. Ms Finch says these are estimated to be 10 million tonnes over 20 years.

One airline passenger on a return journey from London to Boston, US emits round one tonne of carbon.

Attorneys for Ms Finch instructed the court docket that greenhouse fuel emissions from burning oil are an “inevitable” and “oblique” impact of extracting oil.

Barristers appearing for Surrey County Council mentioned that solely impacts from setting up the oil wells themselves ought to be assessed by authorities.

“This isn’t a local weather change case,” Harriet Townsend KC instructed the court docket.

Barrister Estelle Dehon KC, appearing for Ms Finch, mentioned the defence used “distinctions which have an aura of unreality about them”.

Ms Finch’s first problem within the Excessive Courtroom was thrown out. She took it to the subsequent stage, the Courtroom of Appeals, the place the three judges have been cut up, with one upholding the attraction.

“Planning authorities say that they don’t want to contemplate the local weather impacts of the particular burning of the oil – simply from the drilling. It’s like saying a chocolate cake is low calorie so long as you don’t eat it,” Ms Finch, who campaigns with native organisation Weald Motion Group, instructed BBC Information.

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“The County Council is required to find out planning purposes in accordance with the Improvement Plan, the Nationwide Planning Coverage Framework, nationwide coverage and different materials issues, as set out in laws and case regulation. The Horse Hill planning software was decided on this foundation,” a spokesperson for Surrey County Council mentioned.

A picture showing Sarah Finch who has campaigned against the oil wells at Horse Hill since 2012Picture supply, Bryn Truscott

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Sarah Finch has campaigned towards the oil wells at Horse Hill since 2012

Mates of the Earth lawyer Katie de Kauwe instructed BBC Information that carbon emissions from these initiatives are “being vastly underestimated”.

“Builders are combating court docket instances like this as a result of they’re very involved that if decision-makers are confronted with the complete carbon impacts of those initiatives, so with downstream emissions added, then they could assume twice about granting them planning permission,” she added.

Ms Finch’s solicitor Rowan Smith mentioned: “It’s troublesome to overstate the significance of this case.”

The Horse Hill site is near GatwickPicture supply, UKOG

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The Horse Hill web site is close to Gatwick

The UK authorities is legally dedicated to reducing its carbon emissions to achieve web zero in 2050, that means it is going to not add greenhouse gases to the ambiance.

Campaigners together with Mates of the Earth say new fossil fuels initiatives like Horse Hill undermine these guarantees.

New fossil fuels initiatives within the UK have grow to be politically controversial. Campaigners and consultants together with the Worldwide Vitality Company say all oil and fuel should be left within the floor if the world has an opportunity of assembly local weather objectives.

Authorities advisors within the Local weather Change Committee say one of the best ways to guard customers from excessive vitality costs is to put money into renewables not fossil fuels.

The nationwide significance of the case is highlighted by the involvement of exterior teams, invited by the court docket to offer further proof.

They embrace the corporate behind a brand new coal mine in Whitehaven referred to as West Cumbria Mining, in addition to the Workplace for Environmental Safety which is intervening in a case for the primary time.

Mates of the Earth lawyer Katie de Kauwe mentioned it’s extremely uncommon for a personal firm like West Cumbria Mining to make such a intervention.

West Cumbria Mining was given permission by the federal government in 2021 to open the primary new coal mine within the UK for 40 years.

“It’s apparent that they’re nervous in regards to the potential implications of the case on their coal mine,” Ms de Kauwe mentioned.

West Cumbria Mining instructed BBC Information it didn’t think about it acceptable to touch upon a reside authorized case.

The Workplace for Environmental Safety instructed BBC Information it’s intervening as a result of it desires authorized readability on how decision-makers conduct Surroundings Influence Assessments when assessing fossil gasoline initiatives.

Associated Matters

Surrey County CouncilClimate changeEnvironmentCoal miningWhitehaven