The UK government’s approval of a new large gas-fired power plant has been found legal by the supreme court. A legal challenge was proposed after ministers reversed climate change objections from planning authorities.
The plant, which was developed by Drax in North Yorkshire, would be the largest gas-fired power plant in Europe and could account for 75% of the UK’s energy sector emissions when fully operational, according to ClientEarth attorneys, who led the judicial review.
The planning inspectorate recommended ministers to deny permission for the 3.6 GW gas plant because it “would undermine the government’s commitment, as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by” having ” significant negative effects “.
It was the first major project rejected by planners because of the climate crisis. However, Andrea Leadsom, who was secretary of state for corporate, energy and industrial strategies at the time of the planning application, rejected the board and gave the go-ahead in October.
Government actions to tackle the climate emergency are currently particularly under control as the United Kingdom will host a United Nations summit in early 2021. At the meeting, nations will have to drastically increase their commitments to reduce carbon emissions to avoid a disastrous 3-4C rise in global temperatures. For the summit to succeed, the experts say, the host nation must take a leading role at home.
Sam Hunter Jones, a ClientEarth attorney, said: “We are very dissatisfied with today’s judgment, rejecting our arguments against the lawfulness of the government’s decision and its approach to assessing the carbon block risk of the project. We will consider a appeal. “
A Drax spokesman said: “The Drax power plant plays a vital role in the UK’s energy system, generating reliable and flexible electricity for millions of homes and businesses. The development of a new high-efficiency gas energy would support the UK’s decarbonisation energy system. “
He claimed that the company’s ambition was to remove, not add, carbon to the atmosphere by 2030. It would do so by burning wood or plants and thereby capturing and storing emissions. The gas plant is able to install carbon capture technology in the future, the company says.
John Sauven, head of Greenpeace UK, said: “The construction of new gas-fired power plants when the UK has a zero net carbon emissions target hardly shows climate leadership. It also makes little economic sense. The costs are already higher than those for renewable options such as wind and solar. Investing money to increase pollution may still be legal, but it is no longer defensible. “
ClientEarth argued that the combination of the large scale of the project, the level of emissions and long operational life made it a significant threat to the UK’s carbon targets. The group previously inflicted three defeats on ministers for their inability to deal with air pollution.
The planning inspectorate concluded that wind and solar energy would reduce energy bills for consumers, while the proposed gas plant would not. “Both [Drax] is [National Grid] he confirmed that it is the production of renewable plants that provides cheaper energy, “he said.
This year there have been a number of lawsuits against climate-polluting infrastructure projects. Last week the Good Law Project initiated legal action for decades of energy policies that the government was using to approve fossil fuel projects such as the Drax gas plant, even after ministers had pledged to cut back UK carbon emissions to zero net by 2050.
In April, the Transport Action Network launched a legal challenge to try to prevent billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money from being spent on a large road construction program, which according to violation of the UK’s legal commitments to tackle the climate crisis. and air pollution.
In February, the appeals court ruled that plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport were illegal because ministers had not adequately taken into account the government’s climate commitments. This was the first major ruling in the world to be based on the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change. Heathrow is attempting to overturn this decision to the supreme court.
A spokesman for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We welcome the high court ruling issued today in support of the Secretary of State’s decision to grant consent for Drax’s repowering project. We are going further and faster than any other major economy in taking action on climate change.
“As we move on to net zero emissions in 2050, natural gas can provide a reliable source of energy as our world-class renewable energy sector continues to grow, supported by record levels of investment.”