Greenpeace and Uplift are set to challenge a decision in court on Tuesday that a new round of offshore fossil fuel licensing is compatible with Britain’s climate targets.
Last October, ministers opened the 33rd round of oil and gas licenses.
Since then, the government has received more than 100 exploration and development bids.
Greenpeace and Uplift, who are campaigning for a fossil-free UK, are likely to argue that ministers failed to properly assess the impact of the new licensing round and consider sensible alternatives.
The government will contradict their arguments in court.
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Greenpeace UK climate activist Philip Evans said: “We are in the Supreme Court today to hold the Government accountable for their reckless decision to authorize new oil and gas without properly considering the damage it will do to the climate.”
“It is scandalous that the government is trying to ignore over 80% of the emissions from new fossil fuel development in its decision-making process, and in fact it is unlawful.”
Tessa Khan, chief executive of Uplift, said: “How can this government even be thinking about moving forward with new drilling when we can now all see the impact burning fossil fuels is having on our climate?”
“It’s hard to imagine today’s extreme heat around the world getting worse, but it will if we don’t phase out oil and gas.
“The reasons for challenging these new licenses are clear, but we shouldn’t have to take the government to court. There is no public benefit from new licences: most of Britain’s gas is gone and most of the remaining oil is exported.”
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Licenses will be made available for sectors of the North Sea – known as blocks – with the sector regulator North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) estimating that more than 100 could be granted.
Businesses are encouraged to apply for licenses for areas west of Shetland, the North North Sea, the Central North Sea, the South North Sea and the East Irish Sea.
NSTA has also identified four “priority cluster areas” off the coast of Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire that are close to existing infrastructure and therefore have the potential for rapid development.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has previously backed the exploration of new sources of oil and gas, claiming that new domestic fossil fuels are needed for the UK’s transition to net-zero emissions.
The hearing is scheduled to take place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday and Wednesday.