Friends of the Earth has this week created an appeal with the Supreme Court to continue its legal challenge against the UK government’s decision to approve $1.15 billion of financing for a large gas project in Mozambique.
It comes after the Court of Appeal rejected the case in January, stating it was for ministers, not judges, to decide whether such projects align with the global climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement.
The environmental campaign group stands by its position that the decision to fund the project was unlawful and is deeply concerned about the implications of the Court of Appeal’s ruling on public decision-making around the UK’s climate obligations.
The funding decision was made without taking on board the staggering emissions that will result from burning the gas, and without considering how these emissions align with globally agreed climate goals.
The project has been on pause since 2021 due to conflict and insecurity in Cabo Delgado region, sparked by the discovery of gas in the province over the last five years. Over a million people have been displaced and farming and fishing communities have lost their lands and livelihoods.
TotalEnergies, the company behind the project, is among the fossil fuel corporations posting record profits this year off the back of the energy crisis. This month its chief executive Patrick Pouyanne visited the site of the Mozambique Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Project to assess the security situation, adding to speculation that it could soon restart.
Friends of the Earth’s lawyer Niall Toru said: “UK financing for this hugely damaging project was given the go ahead despite a seriously flawed climate assessment which failed to measure the project’s full impacts. Even the government’s own experts raised alarm bells over this.
“By effectively approving this approach, the Court of Appeal is setting a dangerous precedent. Ministers making decisions on fossil fuel projects cannot be allowed to ignore climate science and only pay lip service to the UK’s climate commitments.”
Rowan Smith, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, who represents Friends of the Earth said: “Our client believes that the Court of Appeal’s judgment should not be allowed to stand. It represents a highly retrograde step, essentially ripping the heart out of the Paris Agreement.
“If this judgment isn’t appealed, the provision to make finance flows consistent with a low emissions pathway is relegated to merely an objective rather than a positive obligation.
“This is likely to have a hugely chilling effect on domestic action on climate change, both in the UK and across the other member states. Our client is hoping this will be overturned by the Supreme Court.”