Activists file legal challenge over UK funding for TotalEnergies’ Mozambique LNG project

Environmental group Friends of the Earth has filed a legal challenge against the UK’s government decision to approve $1.15 billion of financing for the Mozambique LNG project led by French energy major TotalEnergies.

Archive. Courtesy of TotalEnergies

The move comes after the judicial review, brought by Friends of the Earth, ended up in legal deadlock last December, when two High Court judges disagreed on the verdict and a split decision meant the case was dismissed so it could be heard again in the Court of Appeal.

On 6 December, Friends of the Earth asked the Court of Appeal to examine the government’s decision to fund the Mozambique LNG project through its export credit agency UK Export Finance (UKEF).

The group argues that financing for the project was permitted after it was incorrectly judged to be compatible with the Paris Agreement and its goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

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The total emissions for the new gas field, which research by the environmental group finds would total some 4.5bn tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) over its lifetime – more than the combined annual emissions of all 27 EU countries, were not calculated as part of the government’s approval process or evaluated against global climate goals, the environmentalists argue.

This, alongside a clear contradiction of the UK’s obligation to help other countries meet their own targets to cut emissions, is why Friends of the Earth believes the decision to be unlawful, the group said.

Daniel Ribeiro, campaigner at Justice Ambiental (Friends of the Earth Mozambique), commented: “This appeal is a chance for the UK to show that it can uphold climate justice rather than just paying it lip service. It’s time to end the UK government’s bankrolling of destructive, colonial fossil fuel extractivism overseas and perpetuating decades of human rights and environmental abuses in countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

Friends of the Earth’s head of legal, Will Rundle, added that 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.

The group warned that the gas project is already impacting communities in Cabo Delgado where people who once made a living from farming and fishing have lost their land and livelihoods.

More than a million people have been forced to flee the area where gas was discovered in the last five years, due to conflict and insecurity, activists claim.

Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith, who represents Friends of the Earth, noted that the Court of Appeal’s answer is likely to be a “defining moment in climate change litigation”.

The appeal decision is expected by early 2023.

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