Climate emissions “inevitable” from oil extraction, appeal court told

Long-term oil extraction from a site in the Surrey greenbelt would “inevitably” result in greenhouse gas emissions from burning the fuel, the court of appeal was told today.

Protest banner outside Horse Hill oil site. Photo: Horse Hill Protection Group

A legal challenge by environmental campaigner Sarah Finch argued that 20 years of oil production approved at Horse Hill could add an estimated 3.3 million tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere.

Her case comes just three days after the end of the COP26 international climate talks in Glasgow, at which small island nations warned that burning fossil fuels threatened their survival.

Surrey County Council, which granted planning permission for Horse Hill oil extraction in 2019, said it needed to consider greenhouse gas emissions arising only from operation of the site.

But Ms Finch, supported by Weald Action Group and Friends of the Earth, argued that the council had acted unlawfully by failing to account for the much larger volume of emissions from burning the oil.

Her barrister, Marc Willers QC, said reports from the UN’s adviser on climate change had concluded that the future of the climate depended on decisions made now.

The growing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would lead to global temperature rise, he said, with potentially catastrophic effects of sea level rise, droughts, flooding and wildfires.

A previous hearing of the case at the High Court last year had ruled that greenhouse gas emissions from burning the oil were not an “effect of the development” and were outside the control of the developer. It was not possible to know when, where or how combustion would take place, the High Court had said.

“Oil combustion will contribute to climate emergency”

Today, Mr Willers said it made no difference to climate change where the oil was burned, whether in Chelsea or China:

“Oil combustion will emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere where it will contribute to the climate emergency that we face.”

The case centres on environmental impact assessments (EIA), detailed studies that accompany larger planning applications.

Mr Willers said the regulations required EIAs to look at both direct and the indirect or downstream emissions.

“in a case involving fossil fuel production, the raison d’etre is to produce oil for combustion, with the result that greenhouse gases will be emitted.

“It would be irrational not to take into account the downstream emissions. with this type of development.

“The downstream emissions are capable of being quantified, ought to be quantified and that assessment ought to be put before the decision-maker so that they have the fullest information on the impact of the development.”

Mr Willers said this approach reflected findings in international courts. The greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil were “reasonably foreseeable and inevitable impacts”, he said.

Barrister Estelle Dehon, also for Ms Finch, said EIAs regularly considered indirect impacts, such as increased jobs in the supply chain, damage to local shopping areas or threats to sensitive wildlife areas.

These impacts happened outside the boundary of a development and were also beyond the control of a developer.

She said:

“There is nothing in the [High court] judge’s ruling that explains why many other benefits or impacts fall within an obvious indirect effect, while greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil do not.

“Oil combustion is not part of Horse Hill project”

Harriet Townsend, barrister for Surrey County Council, told the court that oil was not the end production of the Horse Hill development. That was the operation of the site, she said.

Asked whether Horse Hill would lead to increase burning of fuel in cars, she said:

“We don’t know either way, but it is not correct to assess this development on the basis that it would lead to an increase in oil consumption.”

Mrs Townsend said:

“It is no part of the purpose of this project that the crude be burned after refinement. This project has no interest in that. The burning of oil is likely but not inevitable. It is not the purpose of this project.

“This project would be complete, even if the extracted oil was bought by a philanthropist and buried in the ground. The project has completed its purpose.”

She said combustion emissions created from raw materials were “the effect of decisions made by others elsewhere”. Crude oil joined the international market after it was extracted, she said, and the Horse Hill oil was indistinguishable from other sources of crude.

Mrs Townsend said:

“My client has declared a climate emergency. My client is committed on playing its part in the achievement of net zero.

“At times of crisis, it’s even more important than ever that clear decision-making is allowed to prevail, and the climate crisis should not cloud the views of this court.”

  • The case continues tomorrow when the three appeal court judges will hear more in support of Surrey County Council from the operating company, UK Oil & Gas plc, and the Department for Levelling Up. Friends of the Earth will also address the court on support of Ms Finch’s case.

26 replies »

  1. “Harriet Townsend, barrister for Surrey County Council, told the court that oil was not the end production of the Horse Hill development.” 😂

    • She has obviously been speaking to investors, they can confirm that the end result is a cool
      £600,000 a year for Steve

  2. IGas Singleton has the biggest single source site carbon emissions emissions in West Sussex – figures from the Oil and Gas Authority used. And that before the recent expose of the deliberate (as cheapest option) fugitive cold vented methane emissions from the 4 settling separation tanks.

  3. This site will not increase UK oil consumption. It may be exported but will simply then do the same-it will replace other existing sources.

    Demand for oil in UK or overseas will not be reduced if HH does not exist. The oil will simply come from other sources and any emissions will be the same-or greater if transport emissions are factored in. So, downstream emissions are a smoke screen. They will exist where demand creates the use of oil.
    This is a Nimby argument that contradicts that climate change is global. Hardly a reason to link to COP, and an obvious flaw within the proposition.

    • Isn’t it fascinating to watch the repetition use of “NIMBY” amongst many other fake labelling attempts, that gets trotted out yet again from the perceptively myopic labelling fraternity? One can only point out that the typical cheap fake labelling sources are apparently unable to raise their fake narratives above the usual fossil fuel toxic waste dump level into the reality of the planetary situation that faces all of us.

      Of course, as soon as such derogatory labels are applied, (you may notice only by one side? Only the perceptively myopic polarised sources? Funny that?). Perhaps those could be said to possess little or no sufficient education to express themselves in any relevantly intelligent manner anyway? And of course these cheap derogatory efforts at labelling neither impress nor convince as being anywhere near to being sufficient to the task. Rather the opposite in fact.

      COP26: Financiers are the new Swampys, says Alok Sharma

      As Alok Sharma at COP26 said “If only we were all Swampy’s”. That seems to have escaped the usual fake narratively extemporised fossil fuel sources. No change there.

      Maybe the financiers and delegates of all those countries should have said “If only we were all NIMBYS”? And for any other derogatory labelling attempts? That would have been so very accurate, particularly for the many vulnerable island communities delegates who were excluded from COP26, and who’s very lives are threatened.

      Much better to illustrate how the discussion has moved so far beyond these childish name calling and labelling efforts, that they no longer have any relevance to the rapidly accelerating species extinction, the 1 in 5 deaths being caused by fossil fuel pollution, and the fact that we all live in a closed environmental system on an ecologically challenged planet.

      Which so very many, many more have now twigged to. That this planet is being enthusiastically denuded of all life and the conditions in which life could even exist, for nothing more than greed and profit by an insane fossil fuel petrochemical minority.

      Another question could well be phrased as “Are there any intelligent fossil fuel “delegates” out there to speak to?”


      • Oh dear!

        You must have missed my past comments about Nimbys usually having their own valid reasons for objection, PhilC. You have placed your own derogatory valuation upon the term Nimby which is quite different to the one I have repeatedly referenced.

        Not so intelligent if you did observe them to ignore, and hope that others, who can read, may be manipulated into the same position, and trust that you will be allowed to continue to get away with it.

        It is the conflation, and contradiction, between the Nimby approach and the global situation which is the issue I was referring to. Sorry if that was too confusing. Let me simplify. Oil that is not produced at HH would be produced elsewhere due to demand for oil. The elsewhere would produce the same impact upon climate change, or greater. Even more simple? If I shop for a kilo of carrots and there are some from UK and some from Egypt, then if I buy from the UK pile, my demand is met. I do not buy more, creating an increase in the global output of carrots, producing a protest movement that they should be kept in the ground. The Egyptian ones will be kept in the ground if more follow my example. Why? Because the demand has been met already.

        The superior education scam is just that, old thing. I recall it being used several times on DoD by different individuals. However, I could recount numerous examples of certain errors in that regard from certain quarters which defeats that proposition, but I will not waste my time because that would be moderated to avoid embarrassment. Best not to rely upon it, though.

        • Ahh! Evasion! Oh dear indeed! What a blast?

          So if that was so “fair minded”(!?). Then why was the attempt to repeat the same old NIMBY epithet right their above? There was no comparison there, only the epithet. Just how many times has that term Nimby/NIMBY been used as an epithet in similarly sourced “contributions”? Hundreds?

          Lets just look at the text above shall we: “This is a Nimby argument that contradicts that climate change is global. Hardly a reason to link to COP, and an obvious flaw within the proposition.” That in itself attempts to make the usual perceptively myopic label of Nimby as a derogatory label. Not only that, the statement isn’t true either.

          No old thing, all you succeeded in doing, was to disarm your own argument by this latter evasion attempt. As for such previous posts in that vein, then there is nothing there to boast about there either.

          You cant have it both ways old thing, even if you want to.

          Oops! No go, old thing, but not so nice try?

          Have a Nice Day.

          • No, it doesn’t create any derogatory label. You have applied that. It is your perception of Nimbys, not mine.

            So, no, it is not me evading anything. Do some work, and check my previous comments regarding Nimbys.

            But, no you won’t because all you want to do is try to create a fake argument that has no factual basis. Your false perceptions are not factual. And then you claim education is your crutch!

            For those who want to stick to reality then they may remember my posts or check them. And yours.

            Maybe you prefer the airfreighted Egyptian carrots?

            • No, old thing, I’ve never used the term, nor placed any value on it until just now because of its use in that post and that it now applies to everyone who doesn’t want to die of fossil fuel pollution and the climate destructive, and environmental, and the ecocidal destructive consequences of fossil fuel pollution to all life on the entire planet. The derogatory use is all yours old thing. That reflecting mirror again! Such a nuisance isn’t it?

              So wrong again! Aww! Shame?

              And then the only reason I referred to it now, was only to point out how it can be applied to everyone at COP26, and beyond, including our lovely politicians, delegates and the attending public.

              Just as they all (except for the massive fossil fuel delegate presence, who were more intersted in their green-washing propaganda) who so publicly declared themselves, notably old Cuddly Bunny Wunny Boris as “Swampies” etc etc.

              In fact I’ve never placed any connotation on the epithet at all until now, I’ve merely ignored its use as a waste of time and space amongst so many other intended epithets.

              However, since the mention is made by that good self(!?) of so very very many of previous “contributions” from that source. I would hate to have to remind the “contributor” how many times that epithet was used. But I just have.

              [Edited by moderator] Answer these questions that you have been avoiding even referring to for months now:

              1. That 1 in 5 deaths worldwide, are caused by fossil fuel pollution.

              2. That due to fossil fuel pollution and its monopoly on energy and production, the entire planet is now deep within the 6th Major Extinction Level Event in the history of the Earth.

              3. That the intended target of COP26 was to limit climate change warming down to a 1.5 degree Celsius increase effect.

              4. That predictions now, at present fossil fuel pollution levels and greenhouse gas effects, have been re-assessed to be more like 2.4 degrees Celsius, which will mean millions, if not billions of human deaths, and many countless trillions of animal deaths and ecocidal and environmental destruction worldwide.

              5. That the cause of that greenhouse effect is due to the emissions of greenhouse gasses from the use of fossil fuels when the available alternatives were marginalised, minimised and co-opted to have minimal impact, and bought out and exploited for profit Only in order for the fossil fuel industries insane efforts to continue making outrageous profits at the expense of everything and everyone without interference by such as COP26 or the UN Climate Conference.

              6. That the inevitable effects of the continued use of fossil fuels, that of the rapidly increasing threat of global warming and climate deterioration, was most clearly stated by the scientists who worked for Exxon and Shell, in the late 1970’s to the Early 1980’s.

              7. That the inevitable greenhouse effect was suppressed and vetoed and never even mentioned until it was exposed by Desmog only a few years ago.

              8. That Exxon and Shell made sure that their own scientists, were never allowed to mention it and in stead accelerated their insane propaganda so that their profits could be maximised at the expense of the entire human race and all animal and plant life.

              9. That Royal Dutch Shell suddenly chose after 130 years (there is that 130 number again?) to change their name to just “Shell” and to move their headquarters away from the Netherlands to dear old UK, because: a) Rishi Sunak exposed the UK tax payers unwilling pockets to a massive 130% tax free gift. So that there will not only be no benefit to the UK tax payer from Shell even being located here at all, but that we all will be stung an extra 30% to just hand over to Shell on top of that insult. Adding insult to injury you might say.

              10. That Royal Dutch Shell were making this move ostensibly to avoid the consequences of the Dutch courts ordering Royal Dutch Shell to reduce its collective emissions by 48% and to pay 15% tax on all their holdings and activities. Whereas the poor UK tax payer would not only be expected to foot Shells tax bill and a 30% surplus on top, but there are no such emission regulations in place in UK.

              11. That also Rishi Sunak has waved a massive almost unimaginably large promise of $130 trillion in front of Royal Dutch Shell to pay for all that greenwashing of their their industry in an already failed COP26 attempt to prevent further greenhouse gas climate change and global warming increase below 1.5 degree Celsius? The more probable effect now since that failure, will be a 2.4 degree Celsius increase.

              12. That the change of name from Royal Dutch Shell to “Shell” and the relocation of their headquarters to UK, would enable Shell to offload their emission reduction in the Netherlands and claim they are no longer responsible for awards by the Dutch courts in UK, as we are no longer in the EU.

              [Edited by moderator]



              • PhilC – regarding your question 11, where would Rishi find $130trillion? UK National Debt was $2.2 trillion at end March this year.


                RD Shell is valued at $0.152 trillion… wonder they want to move to the UK to increase their value by 850x….


                • PhilC – You haven’t asked any questions, you have made a series of statements.

                  John H has corrected your statements 10 & 12 (they are basically the same). Statements 9 & 11 are nonsense, perhaps the Chancellor spoke nonsense…..or perhaps he spoke on behalf of the global community who made an agreement at COP26?

                  1 – playing with numbers. How many lives has fossil fuels enhanced – the other 80%? More likely the whole 100%? Fossil fuels have enabled people to live longer and with a better quality of life.
                  2 – see above. And look up the change in global population over the same period. And check the laws of supply and demand.
                  3 – COP 26 is like all the other COPs, never achieving the impossible to achieve.
                  4 – All of us will die one day; 7.9 billion people = 7.9 billion deaths, same for all life forms. Perhaps you meant to say that some deaths will be accelerated due to a possible increase in the forecast increase in global temperature? How about predicting the same if all use of fossil fuels ceases tomorrow?
                  5 – 8 Basically say the same thing. Lots of conspiracy theories around.

                • On the contrary Paul, I said: “Answer these questions that you have been avoiding even referring to for months now:”

                  1. I’m not sure that the phrase “playing with numbers” considering we are talking about peoples deaths are very appropriate in this context? The BMJ and other researchers state that 1 in 5 people worldwide die from fossil fuel pollution. Its irrelevant to suggest that lives are “enhanced” with fossil fuels. When those same people you claim to have their lives enhanced are just as threatened by fossil fuel pollution? There is a quite circular argument there. This entire subject is a little bizarr, but lets do some mathematics if you want to pursue this to the bitter end.

                  For comparison, approximately 60 million people die worldwide per year from all causes, and it seems the numbers are steadily increasing. Presumably due to population increase, though that is not made clear:

                  Number of deaths per year, World (UN Sourced)

                  Whereas SARS Cov-2, based upon recent estimates, worldwide approximately 40,000 to 850,000 people died of SARS Cov-2 between March 2020 to September 2020. About 6 months. So say double that to 1.7 million people as an upper estimate in 2020.

                  How Many People Have Died From Coronavirus?

                  So lets put that into perspective. That means that 1 in 5 deaths from fossil fuel pollution compared to the 60 million people that die each year from all causes. Therefore approximately 12 million people per year are dying from fossil fuel pollution. Compare that to the 1.7 million (upper estimate) in 2020 from SARS Cov-2 and the relative figures are that there are 7 more deaths per year from fossil fuel pollution than from SARS Cov-2.

                  That makes deaths from fossil fuel pollution worse than deaths from SARS Cov-2 doesn’t it. Then why are not deaths from fossil fuel pollution classed as a pandemic?

                  2. You haven’t mention the 6th Major Extinction Level Event in Earths history. So your comment is not relevant.

                  3. COP26 still had a target of 1.5 degrees Celsius and that was deliberately betrayed by fine words and no action. Believe it or not, people all over the world are not such cynics, and they expected action not empty words. A cynic will always find an excuse to do nothing.

                  4. The predicted figure for global warming due to greenhouse gasses and fossil fuel pollution is now 2.4 degrees Celsius. Again the deaths of millions, if not billions is just brushed aside as if it means nothing. Mass extinction from natural causes is one thing, but to allow a single industry to exterminate millions or billions is hardly sane. its insane in fact, when greed and profit means more that life itself. To protect one industry from committing mass extinction must surely be the most pressing time in the human races entire history.

                  I’m sorry you have so few feelings for the millions or billions that will suffer if nothing actually done to stop this fossil fuel insanity of greed and profit for its own sake. But personally I think its best to resist to the last and speak out. Its the same for an increasing number of people worldwide fighting for their children’s lives and that of future generations. Its the only game in town kid.

                  5. Ahh! The old conspiracy theory card? No Paul, as I’ve pointed out quite the opposite on several very detailed and referenced occasions ages ago. Its all chapter and verse now. The fossil fuel and petrochemical industry has prevented so many inventions coming to the public which would have increased by many percentage points, the energy production and diversification and use. Even the internal combustion engine efficiency is dismal compared to what even conventional technology can achieve. The plasma spark plug to name just one of so many. Look it up. While you are there, look at the Australian guy who made a vehicle that ran on just water too? Or is that too dangerous to even look at? Is it that if you don’t look, then it doesn’t exist for you? Albert Einstein would heave a knowing sigh and return to his calculations for his “theory of relativity”. (Or is that another conspiracy theory?) How many inventors throughout history have been murdered for daring to contradict such establishment “theories” as its the sun revolves around the Earth? Oops!

                  6. “That the inevitable effects of the continued use of fossil fuels, that of the rapidly increasing threat of global warming and climate deterioration, was most clearly stated by the scientists who worked for Exxon and Shell, in the late 1970’s to the Early 1980’s.”

                  What? You stopped there? Just as you were doing so badly? I wonder why that was? I guess it was the fact that Exxon and Shell (that name again) spilled the fossil fuel beans all those years ago in the late 1970’s to the early 1980’s? That must have been too embarrassing to even mention I suppose?

                  What happened to 7, 8, 9 , 10, 11 and 12 then? Shame! Never mind, you did better than some I could mention (but wont).

                  That was fun!

                  Have a Nice day tomorrow. And you can watch the sun rise and fall? Oops!

                • The 15% withholding tax applies to the amount received by recipients from share dividends paid out by Dutch corporations. Shell are therefore not relocating to the UK to avoid paying 15% tax on their profits to the Dutch government.

                  The name change is necessary due to Shell no longer fulfilling the required standards for using the Royal designation once the relocation occurs.

                  Moving the company’s tax residence location and HQ has no impact whatsoever on the court’s ruling that requires them to reduce emissions. Refusing to acknowledge or action the court’s rulings would risk the removal of the permits and licenses that allow Shell to operate in the EU, along with the justifiable and understandable public backlash.

                  The Shell Energy and Chemicals Park at Rotterdam will continue to operate within the Dutch and EU regulations. The plans to build an 820,000 tonnes/year biofuels facility at the site will still progress as announced.

                  According to WHO, air pollution kills an estimated seven million (1 in 10) people worldwide every year.

                  WHO data shows that almost all of the global population (99%) breathe air that exceeds WHO guidance limits, with low and middle income countries suffering from the highest exposures.

                  Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are the most common sources of air pollution.

                  WHO state that close to four million out of the estimated seven million deaths, are from illness attributable to household air pollution from inefficient cooking practices using polluting stoves fuelled by kerosene, biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.

              • The District Court in The Hague ruled that their decision against Shell was immediately enforceable and could not be suspended pending an appeal.

                Moving the company’s tax residence location and HQ has no impact whatsoever on the court’s ruling that requires them to reduce emissions, or on any other legal proceedings that maybe currently in progress.

                The tax benefit gained from the move and simplification of the A/B share system, is that investors in Shell’s A shares (including the company) will no longer be subject to the Netherland’s 15% withholding tax.

                The single share system will also allow Shell to increase their share buyback activity, which is currently restricted to 25% of the average daily trading volumes of Shell B.

                The move is the culmination of a process that was set in motion more than a decade ago following demands from investors.

                Both Shell, Unilever and other companies were promised by the Dutch government that the withholding tax would be abolished, in an effort to make the country more business friendly, a promise that has not been fulfilled.

                Shell are now set to follow in the footsteps of Unilever and RELX, who abandoned their duel headed Netherlands-UK structures last year.

                • “The tax benefit gained from the move and simplification of the A/B share system, is that investors in Shell’s A shares (including the company) will no longer be subject to the Netherland’s 15% withholding tax.”

                  So I was correct, Royal Dutch Shell are relocating to UK, and changing their name to avoid paying 15% tax to the Netherlands government, and to take advantage of Rishi Sunaks offer to make the UK tax payer pay for 130% of Shell’s tax bill. Thank you for that confirmation John. Nice of you to confirm that.

                  As for whether “Shell” will honour the Hagues ruling to reduce their collective emissions by 48% remains to be seen in the courts. Stranger things have happened. Exxon refusing to acknowledge or action court rulings to cease polluting and then pilloried the lawyer springs to mind, for one example.

                  Time will tell.

                • Apologies to Exxon, that was Chevron who took over the company who were prosecuted by the Amazonian Ecuador’s courts. However, Chevron instead of honouring the courts decision, then proceeded to take out another court case and to prosecute Steven Donzigger, the lawyer who represented the Ecuadorian people who suffered the deaths resulting from the hundreds of acres of pollution by the former company that Chevron took over and absorbed.

                  US Media Cowers not Covers Chevron’s Prosecution of Human Rights Lawyer Donziger

                  Still outrageous, and I’m sure that will be exploited as a further diversion away from numbers 1 through 12, but hey, better to keep the record straight though.

                  So maybe we will see what “Shell” do in the future about The Hague’s decision.

                  Have A Nice Day.

                • Oh yes, and as someone just pointed out, the reduction of emissions figure that The Hague issued to Royal Dutch Shell was 45%, not 48% as I miss-typed above.

                  Just wishful thinking on my part perhaps, but better to make that clear in any case.

                  After all, what is 3% between friends? Don’t answer that!

  4. “She said combustion emissions created from raw materials were “the effect of decisions made by others elsewhere”.” (Mrs. Townsend for Surrey CC)

    What a superbly dangerous argument. The same argument could be used by the morally impoverished to justify the production of any noxious substance. Poison gas for example – the harm arising from the use. But the aim of production is its noxious use. We must hope that concern for the planet will not allow such arguments to prevail.

    • Except the aim of production of oil is not the same, 1720.

      [Edited by moderator] perhaps a little research around the uses that oil is put to may help you out?

      Apart from it being used to make plastic keyboards for activists to type away upon at 11.12pm burning the midnight (?), there are numerous items on the plus side that make such a contrived argument look like a waste of that plastic. And, no, “we” are more informed.

  5. Some QCs are highly paid to prove black is white. Nice payday, but of course black isn’t white really, no matter how plausible it’s made to sound or how much it costs someone with plenty of spare cash.

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