Mozambique: Judges disagree in case over whether the UK government acted lawfully in approving $1.15bn financing for a liquified natural gas (LNG) project
‘Mozambique LNG project: High Court judges split over decision to fund disastrous gas project’ 15 March 2022
Friends of the Earth is awaiting the final result of a judicial review after two High Court judges today failed to agree on whether ministers had acted lawfully in approving $1.15bn of financing for a gas mega-project in Mozambique. Although one of the judges concluded the government had acted unlawfully, today’s split decision means the judicial review has not yet succeeded as the group awaits a court order determining the final result. The claim, brought to the High Court by Friends of the Earth, examined the government’s decision to fund the Mozambique liquified natural gas (LNG) project through its export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), as approved by the Treasury and the Department for International Trade (DfID).
Justice Thornton, one of two judges who heard the case, agreed with Friends of the Earth’s assessment that the decision to fund the new development, one of UKEF’s largest ever financial packages, was granted without a complete understanding of its climate impacts. She concluded that there was “no rational basis” to show that the financing of the project was consistent with the terms of the Paris Agreement and international ambitions to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Its approval was therefore unlawful. UKEF had failed to assess the project’s total emissions impact by taking into account those produced through the ‘end-use’ of the gas, or its eventual combustion. It was also inconsistent in its conclusions about the project’s likely effects on global emissions, and as such ministerial decision makers were misled.
…Friends of the Earth maintains its view that a claim should succeed where any High Court Justice identifies unlawful conduct, but the court has not yet confirmed whether it has or hasn’t ruled in the group’s favour. A majority view was not reached by both judges, because the second judge, Justice Stuart Smith’s conclusions starkly contrasted those of his counterpart. This means that overall consensus has not been reached by the whole court. In the event that Friends of the Earth’s claim is considered unsuccessful, an appeal is considered inevitable to reach a definitive outcome. Research by Friends of the Earth and the New Economics Foundation shows that the Mozambique LNG project will produce between 3.3 and 4.5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent over its lifecycle, more than the combined annual greenhouse gas emissions of all 27 EU countries.