Press release: 30 April 2020
Approval of Europe’s largest gas plant unlawful: ClientEarth lawyers
A High Court judge has today reserved judgment on whether the UK Government’s approval of what would be Europe’s largest gas plant was lawful, after three days of hearings.
Today concluded the hearing of ClientEarth’s High Court challenge to the decision granting planning consent for a new 3.6GW gas plant, proposed by energy company Drax Power.
During the hearing, ClientEarth’s legal team argued that the Secretary of State’s decision to approve the project, contrary to the recommendation of its own Planning Inspectorate, was unlawful.
The court heard that the UK government was legally obliged to consider the impact of the greenhouse gas emissions that the proposed large-scale gas plant could have, including in light of the UK’s net zero target.
Reducing emissions is one of the government’s fundamental objectives within its own energy policies and lawyers for ClientEarth argued that the emissions impact should have been properly taken into account when deciding whether to approve the project.
In objections made during the planning inquiry prior to the government’s decision, ClientEarth stressed that the adverse impacts of plant, including its significant climate impacts, outweighed any benefits.
Lawyers also explained that the Secretary of State was required to assess whether the proposed gas capacity provided by the project was likely to be needed, given the relatively low level of need for fossil fuel generation established in policy.
ClientEarth had previously explained in the inquiry that the project, if implemented, could pose a serious risk to the cost-effective decarbonisation of the UK’s power sector.
The Secretary of State’s decision to approve the project was at odds with the Planning Inspectorate, which had agreed with ClientEarth, recommending the plant be refused on climate change grounds – the first time it had done so for a nationally significant project.
The court reserved its judgment at the end of the hearing, which was held online and administered by the Planning Court, part of the Queen’s Bench Division at the Royal Courts of Justice.
ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.