Politics

Government must “plug the carbon gap” in planning policy

Urgent change is needed to assess the full impact of fossil fuel proposals on the climate, the government was told today.

Sarah Finch at Horse Hill oil site. Photo: Weald Action Group

Sarah Finch, a campaigner who challenged the approval of oil production at Horse Hill in Surrey, has urged the local government secretary, Robert Jenrick, to update planning policy.

In a letter, Ms Finch said current policy was hindering the ability to tackle climate change and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

She urged the minister to plug the legal and policy gap.

The Horse Hill site, near Gatwick Airport, has planning permission for oil production for 20 years. The use of this oil could release more than 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over this time, Ms Finch said. But Surrey County Council did not take this into account when it granted consent.

Ms Finch called for:

  • Revision of planning guidance so that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels would be assessed in decisions for oil, gas and coal extraction
  • End to the broad support for fossil fuel developments in planning policy
  • Empowerment of local authorities to make decisions in line with net zero obligations

She said:

“We know that if unchecked, climate change threatens the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world.

“We must make all the changes necessary to ensure this does not become reality – and that means empowering planning authorities to assess all greenhouse gas emissions from a proposed development, and to refuse those with unacceptable climate impacts.”

Ms Finch, a member of the Weald Action Group campaign network in southern England, failed to secure a judicial review of the Horse Hill planning decision.

She had argued that Surrey County Council should have taken account of the carbon emissions from burning oil produced at Horse Hill. But the judge ruled that there was no legal requirement to include emissions from the use of the oil in an environmental impact assessment. Court ruling

She is seeking an appeal of that decision, as well as calling for an urgent government review to regulate uncounted carbon emissions.

Ms Finch said:

“The appeal may take months and time is running out to stop climate catastrophe.

“Each new fossil fuel development locks in decades of future greenhouse gas emissions so the government has to move forward urgently.”

She also referred in her letter to Mr Jenrick’s decision not to intervene in the granting of planning permission for a coal mine in Cumbria.

Following that decision, Lord Deben, the chair of the Climate Change Committee, asked the government to provide guidance to local authorities on the climate impact of their decisions. He said it was critically important for local councillors and planning authorities to consider fully the implications of their decisions on climate targets.

12 replies »

  1. Good for you Ms Finch, as you say, and has often been the cause of great debate here on Drill or Drop.

    “Ms Finch called for:

    Revision of planning guidance so that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels would be assessed in decisions for oil, gas and coal extraction
    End to the broad support for fossil fuel developments in planning policy
    Empowerment of local authorities to make decisions in line with net zero obligations

    She said:

    “We know that if unchecked, climate change threatens the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world.

    “We must make all the changes necessary to ensure this does not become reality – and that means empowering planning authorities to assess all greenhouse gas emissions from a proposed development, and to refuse those with unacceptable climate impacts.”

    Well said.

    • Perhaps Sarah Finch should visit Norway and protest to the Norwegian Government and their planning authorities? You could join her PhilC? Iaith1720 may also have something to say? A new fossil fuel development producing 535,000 bopd must surely be the tipping point?

      https://www.equinor.com/en/what-we-do/johan-sverdrup.html

      https://www.equinor.com/en/news/20210128-expecting-third-capacity-increase-johan-sverdrup.html

      Johan Sverdrup continues to increase production
      Our Johan Sverdrup field came on stream in October 2019, and is expected to increase daily production to 535,000 barrels of oil by mid-2021—with CO2 emissions only 4% of the world average.

      The Johan Sverdrup field is expected to increase its daily production capacity up to 535,000 barrels of oil by mid-2021. This is around 100,000 barrels more than the original basis at start-up in October 2019.
      Equinor and its partners tested the plant capacity in November 2020 to verify a possible production rise. Rates up to 535,000 barrels of oil per day were tested.

      The capacity increase depends on water-injection, which is planned for this year.

      PhilC – note the water-injection. Is Norway about to suffer significant earthquakes?

      Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund stops investing in fossil fuel companies; Norway launches 25th Licencing round?

      https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/news/norway-licencing-round-oil-gas-exploration/

      https://www.geoexpro.com/articles/2020/10/norway-surprises-with-25th-oil-and-gas-licensing-round

      Over the years Norway has been vocal in its commitments to tackling global warming and reducing its use of fossil fuels. The country’s sovereign wealth fund, derived from the profits from its petroleum resources, recently said that it would divest itself of any stakes in companies that are solely dedicated to oil and gas exploration and production. Norway has a system with two forms of licence round. Numbered rounds, held every two years, are based on less well-known areas on the Norwegian shelf, where there is greater risk but a higher chance of large discoveries, while the annual allocations in predefined areas (APA), are announced every year and comprise the mature parts of the shelf, with known geology and good infrastructure. When the consultation period was announced the Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Tina Bru, stated that “Regular access to new exploration areas is crucial to maintaining activity on the Norwegian continental shelf. We need new discoveries to uphold employment and value creation”.

    • Well. Here I am in Norway, with Sarah, no, not that one, another Sarah who is….well….a very naughty girl! And no-ones ever heard of Paul Tresto or his fracky whacky flat cat, fat cat, frack hat silly words? And is not registered as a spokesperson for anything in Norway in any records?

      Funny that?

      Except for one young lady called Brynhilde, (phew!) who says in (very) rough translation.

      “Paulus”?!! (Pet name) he speaks with fracked tongue, an’ doesnt know anything what he talking about. He speak too many words out of (points to lower rear posterior location). Never heard of Horses Asset Hill an’ Sorry Council. Has nothing to do with lovely clean unpolluted Norway. All dumb dumb silly sausage nonsense.” (must get a better translator?)

      Well, there you have it direct from Brynhilde (phew!) at the Oslo Tourist Information Office warriors mouth, so to speak.

      Sarah sends her….well….best you didnt know! Which would be par for the course wouldnt it?

    • From Damian Kahya
      “Greenpeace
      Unearthed

      “I think it’s reasonable to say that we are – at this point – at peak greenwash. We’re at the stage where the ratio of promises, plans and targets to actual reductions in the extraction of fossil fuels and burning of forests is at it’s most stark. ”

      What that means is that it has never been more important to hold companies and governments to account on their pledges. That’s what the New York Times

      https://secure.unearthed.greenpeace.org/page/m/58353331/643800cc/2ac04b74/200e72cf/312447290/VEsD/?g=gvprJFDdY9BZuht9e6qFwjA

      tries to do here in an overarching piece that highlights the major issues and refers to the ever-valuable Science Based Targets initiative.

      Some firms – like Netflix – don’t have detailed emissions reductions targets. Others, like Blackrock, have gaping holes in their approach. Still, others, like the soy-producing agri-giant Cargill, have some targets which they aren’t meeting and which – even if they meet them – would allow for overall emissions to rise.

      “Cargill wants to reduce its emissions in its global supply chains by 30 percent per ton of production by 2030, a target it made no progress on at the time of measurement in 2019… But overall emissions in its supply chains may not fall by that amount because of increases in production.”

      It’s a confusing morass that even experienced reporters find hard to unpick. Consumers will find it still harder. And that’s why the article ends on an interesting – if obvious – idea:

      “If we are going to achieve a net-zero carbon economy for real, we will need everyone to act,” said Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer. “And that means action can’t be voluntary. We need requirements and standards that everyone is expected to meet.”

      Four things you need to know

      Climate threats could hike US insurance premiums this year:

      https://secure.unearthed.greenpeace.org/page/m/58353331/643800cc/2ac04b74/200e72ce/312447290/VEsA/?g=gvprJFDdY9BZuht9e6qFwjA

      The federal government is revising rates for flood coverage on April 1. New data suggests premiums need to increase sharply for some homes.

      Biden presidency must rebuild grids to make green promises happen:

      https://secure.unearthed.greenpeace.org/page/m/58353331/643800cc/2ac04b74/200e72b1/312447290/VEsB/?g=gvprJFDdY9BZuht9e6qFwjA

      The millions of people who struggled to keep warm in Texas, with blackouts crippling life inside a dominant energy hub, have laid bare the desperate state of US electricity grids, Bloomberg reports.

      Freshwater fish in ‘catastrophic’ decline:

      https://secure.unearthed.greenpeace.org/page/m/58353331/643800cc/2ac04b74/200e72b0/312447290/VEsO/?g=gvprJFDdY9BZuht9e6qFwjA

      Numbers have plummeted due to pressures including pollution, unsustainable fishing, and the damming and draining of rivers and wetlands. A new report said populations of migratory fish have fallen by three-quarters in the last 50 years.

      Costa-Rica calls for climate and biodiversity targets:

      https://secure.unearthed.greenpeace.org/page/m/58353331/643800cc/2ac04b74/200e72b3/312447290/VEsP/?g=gvprJFDdY9BZuht9e6qFwjA

      “Our approach is to lead by example. As Mandela said, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’,” Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada told the Guardian. “Conservation is one of the key factors that scientists point out as relevant for protecting biodiversity and also for addressing the climate crisis. But working alone, it’s not as effective.”

      Always fun to keep everyone informed.

      Have a nice afternoon.

      • There you go Iaith1720 – PhilC has more to say although I have no idea what he is talking about? But that’s not unusual….

        Perhaps he is implying that stopping Horse Hill will save the planet and that Norway’s increasing production and new exploration is not going to have an impact?

        • Or Turkey’s, or Libya’s or etc.etc.etc.

          Must be a strong export market to drive them forward.

          No, I didn’t understand it either, Paul. Perhaps it was just an attempt to divert to fantasy when the reality becomes inconvenient. Although, I did notice one reference to lovely clean unpolluted Norway, which must indicate that huge amounts of oil can be extracted without causing the opposite! A convert!

          I have asked for an explanation several times about how “keep it in the ground” works whilst UK is a major importer. Seems fantasy is the only answer.

          Meanwhile, I notice that a new report states that £1k is being lost in fuel duty and vehicle tax to the Treasury in the first year for every electric vehicle sold in the UK, and likely to be recovered by road pricing and tolls. So, a premium priced product, with performance and quality issues, is going to become more expensive to run as well. Should be welcomed with open arms and wallets. LOL.

          So, that’s “keep it in the ground” and “fossil fuel subsidy” shown in their true light. And, for the hat trick, no, I am not a climate change denier .
          What’s left?

    • Aww! Sweet! I think Paul is trying to be witty Iaith1720? It’ll be flying pigs next. They dont have much of a sense of humour do they? Just the usual bitter obsessive fossil fool flare off.

      But at least now we know who Mystic Meg is dont we? Total rubbish of course. More like Mystic Smeg?

      Perhaps its only Mystic Smeg that is implying that stopping Horse Hill will save the planet and that Norway’s increasing production and new exploration is not going to have an impact?

      Unfortunately quite the opposite is true, as Sarah Finch clearly says above.

      Now lets try a really accurate prediction shall we?

      See on Drill or Drop Iaith1720 – I’m sure Paul Tresto has more to say…..though as he says, he wont understand it….

      I’m off to see Greta, shes in a bar trashing flat Mars aficionados now NASA’s Perseverance rover has polluted the landing spot. Quite a right hook by all accounts.

      That was fun!

      Enjoy!

      Enjoy!

  2. Maybe when the lady wins a case there may be some basis for the Government to respond.

    Taking the same, failed, argument, along another route, is likely to end up at the same point.

    “We must make all the changes etc. etc.” Hmm. Except then arguing AGAINST local sourcing is certainly not that, so the argument may be the usual, but it has failed before and is still incorrect. Indeed, a Planning Inspector (Wressle) has already ruled that the approach is flawed, so Mr. Jenrick may take a lot of convincing.

  3. Hmmm

    “Each new fossil fuel development locks in decades of future greenhouse gas emissions so the government has to move forward urgently.

    No – not true. Lets look at a few fossil fuel developments that have not locked in decades of greenhouse gas emissions, .

    1. Asfordby – was to be a super pit, drive a few roadways, opened a coal face and shut.
    2. Our very own Preston Road Shale Gas Site (and Misson I expect)
    3. The just recently reported – er some small well run by Angus
    4. Selby Coalfield – divert the East Coast Main line – did not last all that long compared to initial estimates.

    Key issue is to reduce use – maybe close all supermarket fuel outlets (are their emissions taken into account – or is that double counting?)

    I think that batteries will lock in decades of high fossil fuel use for mining and quarrying, but as long is its not here – its all OK?

  4. I agree with you hewes62 about reducing use. I have done so, but it does not seem too attractive to the antis who have to travel around this country in order to protest about a little, yet are unable or unwilling to travel to the sources of our large imports to do the same, and simply try to deny those sources continue, although the ships are pretty large and the shipping details are available for all to see.
    And, whilst I have reduced use I still see a whole lot of UK youngsters who have no intention of doing the same, but the opposite, and many, many more in the developing world who have no intention of doing the same but wish to do the opposite. And, more and more youngsters are being produced, and surviving. Yet, I am expected to believe that the UK doing a little will encourage others to do a lot, without any evidence to support that-other than when the UK was in a position to force others which probably now means there will be an opposite reaction! (Some will promise to do things although their previous promises have not been upheld, but that is supposed to be unknown.)
    Indeed. Hmmm.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.