Government approval of $1.15bn financing for a liquified natural gas project in Mozambique will be challenged at the Court of Appeal this morning (Tuesday 5 December 2022).
A year ago, a case brought by Friends of the Earth ended in deadlock, when two High Court judges disagreed on the verdict.
The challenge was dismissed so that it could be heard again in the appeal court.
Friends of the Earth will argue at the new hearing that the financing, through the government’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), was unlawful.
It was permitted, the environmental organisation will say, after the project was incorrectly judged to be compatible with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Friends of the Earth has estimated that the facility would emit 4.5bn tonnes of greenhouse gases over its lifetime – more than the combined annual emissions of the 27 EU countries.
The estimated emissions were not calculated as part of the government’s approval process or evaluated against global climate goals, the organisation has said.
The Mozambique project also contradicts the UK’s obligation to help other countries meet targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it added.
Friends of the Earth’s head of legal, Will Rundle, said:
“UKEF not only helped finance the project, but it failed to measure all the emissions it would produce – misleading ministers about the scale of its impact. This is a complete failure of credible governance and morally unacceptable in a climate crisis.
“Climate assessments for fossil fuel projects must measure all the emissions, period. We need to understand the climate impacts of spending taxpayers’ money, so we can decline carbon intensive investments like this and fund renewable energy projects instead.”
UKEF argued in court in December 2021 that the Paris Agreement was a “high level aspirational declaration”, that had not been incorporated into UK domestic law and did not contain “clear and specific obligations”.
The government’s lawyer also said funding for the project was the only source of foreign money that would enable Mozambique to “put in place the basics to harness its huge capacity for renewables” and defend against the effects of climate change.
The appeal decision is expected by early 2023.
The case is listed for court 71 at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London, starting at about 10.30am. It will also be livestreamed on the Court of Appeal YouTube channel.