Press release: 25 February 2021

ClientEarth lawyers welcome Drax scrapping gas mega-plant as ‘massive win for the climate’

ClientEarth lawyers have welcomed Drax Power’s announcement today that it is abandoning plans to build a gas mega-plant in North Yorkshire.

ClientEarth took the UK Government to court over its decision to approve a 3.6GW gas plant in Selby, which came to a head in a Court of Appeal ruling last month.

Today Drax confirmed that it will no longer proceed with the plans, but it will continue to focus on what it calls ‘renewable’ biomass generation, created by burning huge volumes of wood pellets for energy, prompting serious climate and biodiversity concerns.

ClientEarth lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said: “Drax’s decision to scrap development of what would have been Europe’s largest gas plant is a massive win for the UK and the climate.

“In opposing this controversial project since its inception, we warned that it risked the UK’s net zero target and risked locking in huge long-term subsidies. And the Government’s planning authority agreed when it recommended refusing planning consent.

“Just as the coal era is long gone, what Drax’s statement today makes clear is that time is up for building any new large scale gas power plants in the UK.

“However, we need to see Drax embrace truly low-carbon and sustainable energy, rather than continuing to bet big on unsustainable biomass.

“Drax relies on an outdated loophole to burn giant volumes of high carbon wood using billions of pounds in subsidies and without paying carbon taxes. And its claims of sustainability are at odds with the reality of the carbon cycle as well as forest and biodiversity loss.

“The science is clear about the inconsistency of large scale wood burning for power with meeting our climate goals and protecting the planet’s essential forests. Recent reports of Drax’s wood pellet production causing toxic pollution and burning gas to dry the pellets only adds to the absurdity.”

Lawyers say the responsibility is also on Government to ensure development of new power plants align with its emission targets. The upcoming policy review is the time for the Government to make clear that climate-wrecking projects will no longer be approved.

“The Courts have now confirmed that major projects can be refused on climate change grounds,” Hunter Jones said. “With the UK hosting this year’s COP climate talks, the Government needs to ensure each and every planning decision is in line with net zero, and close the yawning gap between its carbon promises and reality.”


Notes to editors:
  • November 2018: ClientEarth submitted its initial written objection to Drax Power’s proposed gas plant.
  • July 2019: the Planning Inspectorate recommended to the Secretary of State that consent for the Drax project be refused on climate change grounds.
  • October 2019: the UK Government goes against the Planning Inspectorate’s recommendation, granting consent for Drax’s proposed gas power plant.
  • 15 December 2020: the Yorkshire Post reports Drax’s “new focus on “flexible and renewable generation activities in the UK” in decision to divest its gas generation assets.
  • 1 February 2021: Drax announces completion of its gas asset sale, including four CCGT gas power stations, and announces that they are no longer operating any CCGT gas plants.
  • 25 February 2021: Drax confirms it will no longer go ahead with the Selby gas plant development in its annual profit announcement.
About ClientEarth

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.