Top court blocks UK NGO appeal over Mozambique gas field

The lobby group had already lost a High Court and Court of Appeal case on the issue last year.

Environmental campaigners on Thursday said they had failed to secure permission to challenge a UK government decision to facilitate investment of up to $1.15 billion in a Mozambique gas field.

Friends of the Earth believes the TotalEnergies project is incompatible with the government’s climate commitments, and said it was “disappointed” the UK Supreme Court had rejected its application to appeal.

Natural gas

“It has been estimated that the total emissions for the new gas field could total some 4.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases over its lifetime… and these were not calculated as part of the government’s approval process or evaluated against global climate goals,” it said.

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The lobby group had already lost a High Court and Court of Appeal case on the issue last year.

Vast deposits of natural gas were discovered in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province in 2010.

The southern African country officially began exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) in November, and the deposits could make Mozambique one of the 10 biggest exporters in the world.

Total, Eni and ExxonMobil are all developing projects, but the impoverished, predominantly Muslim province of Cabo Delgado has been plagued by attacks from jihadist groups that have killed thousands and displaced many more.

“The gas project will not only exacerbate the climate crisis,” Friends of the Earth said.

“The development of the Mozambique gas industry is believed to be a key factor fuelling instability that has led to violence, deaths and displacement of almost one million refugees.”

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It urged the government to “review its funding of the project through UK Export Finance (UKEF)”.

A major attack in 2021 in the coastal town of Palma forced TotalEnergies to suspend the project following a major attack in the coastal town of Palma in 2021.

Security situation in Mozambique

At the end of May, TotalEnergies received a report from writer and former NGO leader Jean-Christophe Rufin, who noted an improvement in the humanitarian and security situation in Mozambique, according to the oil group, which has not yet set a date to resume the project.

The UK financing is part of a wider package of around $14.4 billion of investments by other countries including the United States, Japan, South Africa, Italy, the Netherlands and Thailand.

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UKEF welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision said a spokesperson, who added that the three judges at the previous Court of Appeal hearing had unanimously concluded it had “acted lawfully in deciding to support the Liquified Natural Gas project in Mozambique”.

“The UK is committed to helping countries across the globe move away from their dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate to net zero,” noted the spokesperson.

“UK Export Finance is fully aligned with this commitment, pledging to support more green exports and decarbonise its portfolio by 2050.”

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