29 C
Wednesday, July 24, 2024

UK Supreme Court ruling hailed as victory for environmental campaigners

- Advertisement -

It could be more difficult for oil and gas companies to build new wells in the United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, experts said last week following a landmark UK court decision that some believe may also set a precedent for other nations. 

The UK Supreme Court ruled  earlier this month that the County Council of Surrey, in southeast England, should have considered the full climate impact of a proposed series of wells near the town of Horley. The court agreed with environmental campaigners who said that–as part of its environmental impact assessment–the council should have considered not just the greenhouse gas emissions from building the wells but also from the burning of the oil that they contain. 

While the decision does not mean that future fossil fuel projects will be rejected, it does mean that local councils–who make planning decisions in the UK–will have to consider the broader environmental footprint of oil and gas developments.   

“It is a very important ruling,” said Patricia Kameri-Mbote, the director of the law division at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

“It ensures that the true environmental cost of fossil fuel projects is considered.” 

While the decision only applies to the UK, it will likely be considered closely by other courts around the world, said Kameri-Mbote.   

The decision comes during a summer of extreme weather, driven by an intensifying climate crisis. There have been deadly heatwaves and wildfires across southern Europe with temperatures reaching more than 44°C in Greece. 

According to  UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report  2023, unless countries deliver more than promised in their existing climate plans–known as Nationally Determined Contributions–the world is heading for a 2.5-2.9°C temperature rise above pre-industrial levels this century. In order to meet the 1.5°C    Paris Agreement  goal, the world needs to cut emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases by 42 percent by 2030. UNEP News

In a major win for climate change activists, the UK Supreme Court said the law governing environmental impact assessments did not impose a geographical limit on the fallout from oil and gas developments.

“In principle, all likely significant effects of the project must be assessed, irrespective of where (or when) those effects will be generated or felt. There is no justification for limiting the scope of the assessment to effects which are expected to occur at or near the site of the project,” the court noted.   

The court also quoted  UNEP’s 2019 Production Gap Report, saying that “leaving oil in the ground in one place does not result in a corresponding increase in production elsewhere.” In doing so, it rejected the so called “drug dealer defense” where fossil fuel companies argue that if they do not supply oil and gas, someone else will. 


Popular Articles