CCC says planning must deliver net zero – but no support for Horse Hill challenge

The government’s climate adviser has said planning policies must deliver carbon-reduction goals – but it declined to back a landmark legal challenge to how UK onshore oil production is decided.

Campaigners gathering outside Surrey County Council in advance of decision meeting on oil production at Horse Hill, 11 September 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) said planning decisions should be tested against the country’s target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Launching its annual progress report , the CCC said it wanted to see strong decarbonisation, with as little fossil fuel consumption as possible.

But it did not support the case, due at the Court of Appeal in November, that planning authorities should take account of carbon emissions from the use of oil produced onshore.

Environmental campaigner, Sarah Finch, will argue that Surrey County Council should have assessed these indirect emissions when it approved plans for long-term oil production at the Horse Hill site.

If she is successful, the case could have major implications for carbon-intensive industries.

Asked by DrillOrDrop about Ms Finch’s case, the CCC’s head of carbon budgets, David Joffe, said:

“You will need to consume some fossil fuels, hopefully a rapidly shrinking amount of fossil fuels over time. So, I am a bit uncomfortable with saying planning decisions should take those things into account if fundamentally it is going to stop us being able to operate our economy in the way we need to until we can get off fossil fuels completely.”

Dr Joffe said lower UK production would increase imports, with less control over emissions.

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

Ms Finch said there was no time to waste to make planning law compliant with net zero:

“In the UK, the mismatch between climate and planning policies means that the full climate impacts of onshore oil and gas planning applications are not being assessed in the planning process.

“We saw this at Horse Hill in Surrey, where in 2019 Surrey County Council approved 20 years of oil production. This oil could produce upwards of 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gases when it is burned – yet the Council argued it wasn’t required to take this into consideration in the environmental impact assessment. I am challenging that decision in the courts.”

Ms Finch added:

“We badly need clear updated energy policy and planning guidance that makes it explicit that councils have the responsibility and the authority to reject applications on climate grounds.

“And it’s not just me saying that. Surrey County Council’s own climate change strategy asks the government to make explicit that planning authorities have the right to reject planning applications where there are identifiable and material climate impacts.”

Net zero test

The CCC report called for a net zero test of all government policy to ensure it was compatible with UK climate targets.

The CCC’s chair, Lord Deben, said:

“We have really got to say that whatever we do, large or small, we have to test it against its contribution to net zero.”

The report called for reform of the planning system to deliver low-carbon and climate-resilient measures.

It said the current Planning Bill does not ensure that developments and infrastructure are compliant with Net Zero and appropriately resilient to climate change. It would be serious were this opportunity to be missed, the CCC said.

Lord Deben said:

“Unless net zero is as central to planning as the chancellor has made it to the decision-making of the Bank of England, then frankly we are not going to reach that end.”

Failure to deliver

The CCC criticised ministers for their failure to deliver on climate promises. 2020 had been “marred by uncertainty and delay to a host of new climate strategies”, it said.

“Those that have emerged have too often missed the mark. With every month of inaction, it is harder for the UK to get on track.”

The government was accused of “a high-stakes gamble” by focussing everything on a new net zero strategy in the autumn.

The report called for publication of the strategy, with clear policy plans, backed fully by the Treasury, before the COP26 climate summit, hosted by the UK in November.

It also had more than 200 recommendations for individual government departments.

It said reducing demand for fossil fuels and the emissions footprint of UK oil and gas production and processing were key to limiting the impact on global greenhouse gas emissions.

It recommended policies to reduce upstream emissions from oil and gas production by 68% by 2030, relative to 2018 levels. Flaring and venting should be permitted only for safety reasons from 2025.


Friends of the Earth’s policy head Mike Childs said:

“The committee’s criticisms are spot on. Without a detailed strategy for combatting the climate crisis, government promises to decarbonise the economy are simply more hot air. 

“The Prime Minister must urgently set out his government’s blueprint for slashing emissions in key areas such as homes and transport. With no climate action plan and his government’s support for more roads, runways and an overseas gas mega project, Boris Johnson risks being a laughing stock at the UN climate summit in Glasgow later this year. 

“The Chancellor’s role in delivering net zero is crucial – unfortunately this year’s Budget did little to demonstrate the Treasury’s enthusiasm for building back greener.

“It’s time to seize the new jobs and other opportunities that developing a green economy will bring or be left dealing with the fall-out of more floods, wildfires and droughts in a climate crisis spinning rapidly out of control.”

17 replies »

  1. Well, certainly the quantity is there, but maybe less hours and the quality may improve!? “Valuable time”?? Hmm. As your English is so good , one could speculate as to who you lobby for. My time is my own, and I do not have to allocate it for them, us or we.

    The “we” again, and the proud defence of English. Been done before on this site, by someone else (?). I will stick with making my own points (I) and the use of maths. and physics. Perhaps it takes we and English to try and deflect from the maths. and physics, however, it is/are maths. and physics that are the areas that will determine the outcome in this instance. Dr. Joffe seems to understand that, but just another who can be ignored if that is not a convenient message. Must be funded by the polluters! And, others are not funded, 1720? Well, some are, including Ms. Finch. But, I do take her seriously, and try not to dismiss because of it.

    But, please do keep up with the “we”. I am still awaiting at least one more to try and defend the transfer of production issue that you have problems with, but it still seems the rest of the “we” still have concerns about trashing their credibility.

    If you want to concentrate on the English, perhaps take a look at the anti speculation within the September 2019 photo., and start a demonstration against false speculation, or, correction of fake news when it has been shown to be fake by subsequent events, or lack of same?

    Do I believe climate change would occur without man’s input? Well, I think there are few scientists who would deny that is not the case, especially those who have any knowledge of solar activity in the past, present or projected in the future. Maybe the ice ages were created by man leaving the fridge door open? Nope. You can use English to try and suggest that is what happened, but maths. and physics would prove you wrong.

    But, you have more need to defend your own position regarding climate change as you have repeatedly tried to deny that transport emissions are a significant issue (except, just Giggle maritime transport emissions and the answers are there)-mind you, the “other” individual who followed the same pattern did the same thing to defend his use of a 3 litre BMW diesel, so there is “previous”-and you are also against another mode of transportation which reduces emissions by man. Perhaps, when you hold those views and parade them for all to see, then it may be wise not to challenge others, weaponizing climate change, who embrace both positive moves? Especially when you are a conspicuous excessive user of energy? Otherwise it becomes more preaching in the absence of practice. Even Boris tries to diet and exercise whilst he arranges a watershed on junk food advertising, to prevent being branded a hypocrite.

  2. PS:

    Sorry to burden you with the bad news, 1720, but as a Guardian reader you will have seen “UK facing a summer of food shortages due to a lack of lorry drivers.” !!!!

    There you are. I warned you how insecure that Spanish courgette supply route was. Should have had the production transferred to the UK. Oh, it was by some. Anyone wish to buy some very expensive courgettes? I have local supply available-but, at my price.

  3. My questions: “By the way, is ‘climate change’……anthropogenic or not? We know that you disapprove of the scientists’ solutions and advice. Is this because you think that global overheating would be happening regardless of any human contribution?”

    Your answer: “Do I believe climate change would occur without man’s input? Well, I think there are few scientists who would deny that is not the case, especially those who have any knowledge of solar activity in the past, present or projected in the future. Maybe the ice ages were created by man leaving the fridge door open? Nope. You can use English to try and suggest that is what happened, but maths. and physics would prove you wrong.”

    Thank you, Martin. We now know where you stand. Further comment would be superfluous.

  4. Don’t thank me, 1720, always happy to help you out, even though the information is known to most, I accept you may have missed out. If you can find me any scientist who can state climate change has not been happening from the dawn of time, then please do so-but it will not be one I recognize as a scientist, as the writing is on the wall(s).

    If you had asked me a different question, like do I believe (roughly) 8 billion people alive now contribute to climate change, you would have received a different answer. And, if you had asked me if a few within that vast number made the situation worse by not accepting easy progress whilst they waited for utopia, I would have replied “local production is part of the answer that some don’t want to hear”!

    (Even God decided it would take 7 days, and didn’t balk at doing it piece by piece.)

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