NEWS & INSIGHTS

Future of UK Fossil Fuels at Stake in Recent Court Case

One woman’s legal fight over a Surrey oil drilling permit risks spelling the end of new UK fossil fuels projects. 

Her court case in the Supreme Court argues that planning authorities should consider the climate impact of extracting and burning oil before making decisions on new oil drilling permits. 

Her argument rests on a surge in downstream emissions, or the greenhouse gas emissions that will be released when the oil will be burned. Ms Finch says the drilling permit will result in 10 million tonnes of emissions in 20 years. 

Lawyers for Ms Finch told the court that greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil are an “inevitable” and “indirect” effect of extracting oil. 

The Surrey County Council, which approved the permit, said only impacts from construction are taken into consideration before the permit is approved. 

“This is not a climate change case,” Harriet Townsend KC told the court. 

“Planning authorities say that they don’t need to consider the climate impacts of the actual burning of the oil – just from the drilling. It’s like saying a chocolate cake is low calorie as long as you don’t eat it,” Ms Finch, who campaigns with local organisation Weald Action Group, told BBC News. 

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