Climate campaigners seek judicial review of 'outdated' energy national policy statements

Environmental and legal campaigners say they have begun proceedings to force a judicial review of the government's 2011 national policy statements on energy, arguing that the documents are incompatible with ministers' own net zero carbon commitments.

Drax: gas plant plan approved by government in October (pic: Tim Dennell, Flickr)
Drax: gas plant plan approved by government in October (pic: Tim Dennell, Flickr)

In a statement today, green energy entrepreneur Dale Vince and activist and writer George Monbiot said they had joined forces with barrister Jolyon Maugham QC to seek a review of the documents which were approved by MPs In July 2011.

The documents include policy statements on fossil fuel-related development, renewables, nuclear, gas and energy infrastructure.

The statement, published on the website of Vince's green energy firm, said that the move follows the Court of Appeal’s ruling last week that the government's Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) favouring a third runway at Heathrow was unlawful because the UK's obligations to tackle climate change under the Paris Agreement were not taken into account.

The statement from VInce, Monbiot and Maugham said that, because they were adopted in 2011, the national policy statements for energy developments "do not recognise, or grapple with the impact of the Paris Agreement, recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports or Parliament’s net zero push".

"Outdated policies are currently being used to push through project after project. In October 2019, the secretary of state relied on them to grant development content for the Drax gas-fired conversion in North Yorkshire, even though the appointed inspector recommended it be rejected", it said.

The claimants say they have written a pre-action letter to the government "demanding a review of current national policy statements that govern how planning decisions are made".

If this demand is not met, the three say they will "seek a court order and a judicial review to force change".

Maugham said: "Government attempts to address the [climate change] issue with warm words around their 2050 targets. But they do this whilst pushing forward with an energy policy agenda that means fossil-fuel projects can still go ahead by the backdoor with little oversight, or recourse to justice for communities affected.

"It’s time for this hypocrisy to end and to put the planet first, which is why we are calling on the secretary of state to stop the executive making decisions based on flawed and outdated frameworks set out in little-known or understood national policy statements."

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it would not comment on the case.

This week, environmental campaigner Chris Packham announced that he had begun legal action seeking to overturn the Prime Minister's recent backing for the High Speed Two (HS2) rail project, arguing that the evidence supporting the decision was "flawed" and does not comply with the government's net zero carbon goal.

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