Environmental group Greenpeace is taking the UK government to court over its decision to grant BP a new permit to drill for oil in the Vorlich field, 240 km east of Aberdeen, Scotland.
Lawyers from Greenpeace will call for the government’s decision to be overturned, and for BP’s permit to be revoked. Greenpeace will argue that when the permit was granted, the government failed in its legal duty to check what impact it would have on the climate. As part of the permit process, the government is required to do an environmental impact assessment, in which a company’s environmental statement is published and put out for public consultation.
At present, the government assesses the impact of emissions that come from oil production, and not the emissions resulting from burning the oil extracted.
“Emissions from burning the oil extracted at Vorlich will be the equivalent of over three coal plants running for one year,” Greenpeace claimed.
It is the first time an offshore oil permit has ever been challenged in court. Greenpeace said that if it wins, the ruling from the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, could have huge ramifications for how the UK government makes future oil permit decisions. For example, it could have implications for the imminent decision on controversial proposals to open new wells in the Cambo oil field.
Today’s case comes after Greenpeace staged a major protest against BP in 2019, where activists blocked the company’s contracted rig for 12 days at sea on its way to the Vorlich field. It also comes just weeks before the UK government hosts the crucial climate change summit in Glasgow, known as COP26.