ClientEarth v. Secretary of State
Jurisdiction: High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division, Court of Appeal
Principle law(s): Climate Change Act
Side A: Client Earth (Ngo)
Side B: United Kingdom (Government)
Core objectives: Environmental group challenged government's decision to approve natural gas plant.
SummaryOn January 30, 2020, the environmental group ClientEarth filed an action in the High Court challenging the UK government's decision to approve a natural gas plant, which would be Europe's largest.
On January 21, 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's decision and rejected ClientEarth's appeal, finding that the government's approval of the plant was lawful. The Court of Appeal found that the Secretary of State balanced the adverse effects of the project, including greenhouse gas emissions, with the positive effects, including socioeconomic outcomes and re-use of existing infrastructure, and lawfully concluded that the benefits outweighed the adverse impacts. The Court of Appeal departed from the High Court in reasoning that greenhouse gas emissions are capable of being treated as "a freestanding reason for refusal" by the Secretary. Nevertheless, the Court reasoned that such emissions are not an "automatic and insuperable obstacle" to approval of infrastructure projects, and the decision-maker has discretion over the weight to assign to greenhouse gas emissions in approval decisions.
Drax decided in March 2021 to suspend the expansion in spite of the favourable judgment.
Related laws and policies
The Act provides a long-term framework to improve carbon management, to help the transition to a low carbon economy, encourage investment in low carbon goods and provide an international signal. The Act establishes a legally binding target for the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net z...