Legal challenge over Rosebank

Central Government, Energy Companies, Environmental Policies

Climate campaigners are to mount a legal challenge over Rosebank. The government will be taken to court on two counts for approving plans to develop the Rosebank oil field. The field was given the go ahead in September. 

Greenpeace and the climate group Uplift are making their legal challenge over Rosebank on the basis that the government has failed to prove how drilling the largest undeveloped fossil fuel field in the North Sea aligns with their much-touted plans to drastically cut carbon emissions by 2050. Offshore energy regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority (NTSA), will also face legal action for approving the licences. The campaigners have applied to the Court of Session in Edinburgh for a judicial review of the decision.

The NSTA granted consent to Equinor and Ithaca Energy, claiming it was “taking net-zero considerations into account throughout the project’s lifecycle.”

The government defines net zero as only including emissions generated by machinery used to extract oil, not the emissions created when it is sold and used abroad.

Campaigners have calculated Equinor (a Norwegian state-owned multinational energy company) is set to benefit from a £2.8 million tax break to extract around 300 million barrels of oil from the site. This means that the UK public will carry almost all the cost of developing the field. They also claim the project will not cut household energy bills, as the oil sold on the world market would make no material difference to the price UK consumers pay.

Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift, said: “If Rosebank goes ahead, the UK will blow its own plans to stay within safe climate limits. It’s that simple. If the government disagrees, it needs to provide evidence and prove it in court.”

Greenpeace UK’s co-executive director, Areeba Hamid, said: “Rosebank’s development was approved under the false claim that it is entirely compatible with the UK’s legally binding climate commitments.”

A government spokesperson said Britain’s oil and gas industry “will provide around £50 billion in tax revenue over the next five years,” which it says will “fund our transition to net zero.” They said that they would “robustly defend” the legal challenges.

The Edinburgh court is likely to rule on the legal challenges and whether to grant permission for a full hearing early next year.