Campaigners are taking the United Kingdom government to court for handing oil and gas firms £13.6 billion in subsidies since the Paris Agreement, despite the country’s legal duty to reach net-zero by 2050.
“Between 2016 and 2020, oil companies received £9.9 billion in tax reliefs for new exploration and production of oil and gas, and £3.7 billion in payments towards decommissioning costs,” writes the Independent. The total is roughly equivalent to C$24 billion.
Paid to Pollute plans to argue that the U.K.’s generosity to the fossil sector is illegal under the country’s own climate laws. Maintaining those subsidies would run directly counter to an urgent warning from the Johnson government’s own Climate Change Committee (CCC) that sticking to business-as-usual will find the U.K. contributing significantly to a “disastrous temperature rise of 2.7°C by 2100,” writes the BBC.
In its shortlist of recommendations to “support Britain’s climate leadership,” the CCC directly recommends the U.K. follow the COP 26 recommendations to phase out “inefficient subsidies,” adds the BBC.
One of the plaintiffs in the suit, former oil refinery worker Jeremy Cox, expressed disgust at the thought that the Johnson government might still be gung-ho on new oil and gas projects, even after hosting COP 26. “Just weeks after world leaders gathered in Glasgow and the prime minister urged them to keep the 1.5°C target alive, the U.K. government will have the hypocritical audacity to argue in High Court that it should continue to subsidize new oil and gas production,” he said.
(Much of the reporting in The Independent centred on the mammoth, new Cambo oilfield off the Shetland Islands. But that was before Royal Dutch Shell’s blockbuster announcement Friday that it was withdrawing from the project.)
The Paid to Pollute lawsuit is going forward just days after another high court hearing in London during which three young people—Adetola Onamade, 24, Jerry Amokwandoh, 22, and Marina Tricks, 20— asked for a full hearing into their claim that the Johnson government’s foot-dragging on climate action is “breaching their rights under the Human Rights Act to life and to family life by failing to do what was necessary to avert environmental disaster,” reports the Guardian.
“The defendants know that climate change is an urgent threat to life,” added environmental lawyer Tim Crosland of Plan B Earth. “They know its impacts hit hardest for groups exposed to disproportionate and discriminatory risks, including the claimants. They know what needs to be done but they are not doing it.”