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Climate Groups Sue the UK Over North Sea Oil Project

Two environmental groups have challenged in court the UK’s approval of a major new oil project in the North Sea, arguing that the field would be incompatible with the UK’s net-zero goal and that the government hasn’t factored in Scope 3 emissions when giving the green light to the plan.

In separate lawsuits filed in Scotland’s top civil court, Edinburgh’s Court of Session, Greenpeace, and Uplift are suing the UK government for the approval issued earlier this year to the development of the Rosebank oilfield northwest of Shetland, the largest discovered untapped resource on the UK Continental Shelf.    

At the end of September, UK regulators approved the development plan for the Rosebank project, paving the way for operator Equinor to proceed with a $3.8-billion investment in the field, which has stirred controversy in Britain amid debates about the need for new oil and gas projects.

The approval for Rosebank had been delayed amid concerns about whether the development plan would meet requirements for electrification for net-zero emissions. These requirements are part of the so-called North Sea Transition Deal, an agreement between the UK government and the offshore industry to cut emissions from oil and gas development and production as much as possible.

Total recoverable resources at the Rosebank field are estimated at around 300 million barrels of oil, with Phase 1 targeting an estimated 245 million barrels of oil, Equinor says.

“If Rosebank goes ahead, the UK will blow its own plans to stay within safe climate limits,” Uplift’s executive director Tessa Khan said, as carried by the Financial Times.

The Government said it “strongly rejects these claims” and would contest any lawsuits.

“The UK is a world leader in reaching net zero – cutting emissions faster than any other major economy – and as the independent Climate Change Committee recognises, we will still need oil and gas as part of our energy mix,” a spokesperson for the government said.  

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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