12:53, May 18 143 0 theguardian.com

2020-05-18 12:53:04
Legal case launched over UK's 'outdated' energy policies

The government faces a legal challenge over a set of “outdated” energy policies which are being used to approve fossil fuel projects even after it vowed to end Britain’s contribution to the climate crisis.

Climate campaigners issued proceedings for a judicial review of the energy planning policies on Monday after officials refused to overhaul the rules, which could be used to support major fossil fuel power plants, open cast mines or fracking.

The campaigners claim that the policies undermine the government’s promises to tackle carbon emissions, including in the Paris Agreement and in its own net zero legislation which became law last year.

The energy planning policies were put in place by government officials almost a decade ago to help avert the risk of blackouts, but are still being used to justify fossil fuel projects, including the controversial plans for a new gas plant at the Drax site in north Yorkshire.

Drax won permission to convert two of its coal-fired power units to burn gas, despite a clear warning from the planning inspectorate that a new gas plant would undermine the UK’s climate goals.

Jolyon Maugham, a director at the Good Law Project, said: “We are teetering on the brink of a climate catastrophe. Yet the government is refusing to even commit to a review of an outdated energy policy that permits fossil fuel projects to be forced through. Our legal challenge seeks to change that.”

The non-profit legal group is working alongside climate campaigners Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, and George Monbiot, a Guardian columnist, to call for the planning rules to be brought in line with the government’s own climate goals.

“The government’s outdated energy policy means approval to frack in Lancashire or permission for a new open cast coal mine can be forced through, despite our national and international commitments to tackle the climate emergency,” Maugham said.

The National Policy Statement for Energy (NPS) was set by officials in 2011, and called for planning decision makers to find in favour of “urgent” fossil fuel projects to avoid an energy supply crunch which was forecast to raise the risk of blackouts in the middle of the decade.

The policy statement is still being used to approve fossil fuel projects, despite a boom in renewable energy which has bolstered the UK’s supplies in recent years.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy did not respond to a request for comment.

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