MAJOR CLIMATE CHANGE & FRACKING PLANNING CONCESSIONS SECURED DURING COURT CASE AGAINST GOVERNMENT

This week, we brought a judicial review hearing against the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government at the Royal Courts of Justice over what we believe to be an unlawful policy on fracking.

12 Christmas Days until climate collapse

We also held a protest outside the Courts, making a point that we only have 12 more Christmas Days until climate collapse. This was from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report from October 2018, where global scientists issued an urgent warning that the world has just 12 years to make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” in order to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5C.

If this temperature is exceeded, even by just half a degree, the impacts for hundreds of millions of people would be beyond control and hold grave consequences. Extreme weather events, such as heavy floods, droughts, off-the-scale heat waves, would change life as we know it.

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 18: Vivienne Westwood, Joe Corre (L) & 3 Wise Men In Legal Bid Against Government To Put A Stop To Fracking at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, December 18, 2018. (Photo by Ki Price/Getty Images)

 

Mr Justice Dove heard the review which lasted three days, with the government defence counsel led by Rupert Warren QC, who represented the Secretary of State.

The Conservative Party’s militant backing for fracking was pushed through in the September 2015 Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) made by Amber Rudd, the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, with an emphasis upon the support for shale gas to help meet government objectives, namely to “secure energy supplies, economic growth and lower carbon emissions”.

‘Dodgy dossier’

This WMS was created, with reliance upon the highly questionable 2013 report by Mackay-Stone: The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Shale Gas Extraction and Use, which has since been debunked  as containing incorrect levels of greenhouse gases and misrepresenting shale gas as a solution to low-carbon future.

 

Talk Fracking commissioned a report in 2017 by Paul Mobbs called: Whitehall’s Fracking Science Failure: How the Government Has Misled Parliament and the Public on the Climate Change Impacts of Shale Oil and Gas Development in Britain. 

According to the report, fracking is not a “bridge” to a low-carbon energy future as the Conservative Party have misled the public to believe. The Mackay-Stone report is a rusty holding pin that the government and industry have incorrectly relied upon to influence planning policy and party support for fracking since 2013.

Mackay-Stone said fracking would help the UK transition to a renewable energy future whilst helping us reach our climate change targets. However, the Mobbs report demonstrated that fracking in the UK will mean missing our obligations to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement, whilst also contradicting the aims of The Climate Change Act (2008).

The Mobbs report concluded that:

“Mackay-Stone report must be withdrawn, and a moratorium implemented on all ‘fracking’ operations, until we can state the impacts with certainty.”

Talk Fracking’s case centred on paragraph 209a in the National Planning Policy Framework, which said local authorities should develop policies to facilitate onshore oil and gas exploration and extraction and recognise their benefits in supporting a transition to a low-carbon economy. There was no public consultation involved with this policy, nor a consideration for international scientific developments on climate change and emissions.

Major admission from the government

The implications from this case should it prove to be successful for Talk Fracking, include that the government’s fracking policy is found to be unlawful and undemocratic, and the government could be forced to rewrite it. The result could also pave the way to further legal action against the government.

Additionally, a fundamental concession was that the government’s defence barrister was forced to admit, was that local councils have the ability to reject fracking applications on the grounds of climate change. This is a crucial factor into the interpretation of paragraph 209a, because previously during applications for fracking, councils have been specifically told they are not able to consider climate change as it is a “matter for future policy.”

Rupert Warren QC stated:

“Paragraph 209a does not prevent any additional evidence being taken into account by mineral planning authorities…Other people can come along with evidence over time and show that the WMS is so out of date as to be proved wrong.”

Talk Fracking’s legal team was led by David Wolfe QC from Matrix Chambers, Peter Lockley from 11KBW, Jennifer Robinson from Doughty Street Chambers and Rowan Smith from Leigh-Day.

After the closing of the court case, Head of Talk Fracking, Joe Corré said:

“It’s ludicrous to think that the government have built their backing for fracking from a dodgy dossier that was thoroughly discredited. The Secretary of State had a duty of care to take into account all new evidence and carry out a full public consultation. They failed to do this.

“We are now in a climate emergency, with only 12 Christmas Days left until climate collapse in 2030. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and ban fracking.”

Here’s hoping that 2019 sees the demise of the fracking industry: it is not needed, not wanted and goes against all scientific research on climate change and the dire need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.