A case has begun this morning in the High Court as Friends of the Earth (FoE) challenges the UK government’s support for Mozambique LNG.
The NGO has said that financing the project was incorrectly found to be compatible with the Paris agreement. Use of the gas will emit up to 116 million tonnes per year of CO2e, FoE said. Over its lifetime, the NGO believes it could emit 4.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases.
The assessment of the climate impact considered only a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise, the NGO noted. This was rather than against a 1.5 degree rise.
The hearing starts on December 7 and runs until December 9.
UK Export Finance agreed to provide $1.15 billion to Mozambique LNG in July 2020. The UK government ended funding for overseas oil and gas projects in March 2021.
FoE also said gas discoveries had driven conflict, human rights abuses and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
The NGO hopes that the court will declare the financing unlawful, leading to the withdrawal of the cash.
FoE international climate campaigner Rachel Kennerley said government support for the project “hampers not only the UK’s own chances of curbing climate breakdown, but also global targets to confront it, while pushing Mozambique to the brink of climate disaster.”
Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith, who is representing FoE, said that any new investments in fossil fuel production is “inconsistent with the low emissions pathway under the Paris Agreement.
“This project was never compatible with the Paris Agreement on the basis of the evidence taken into account, and the UK was not – our clients will argue – legally permitted to conclude otherwise.”
The UK government has received objections from a number of sources recently.
FoE delivered a petition to No. 10 on December 6 expressing objections to the Mozambique LNG funding.
Live from Downing Street 📢
We just handed in a petition – which 45,000 of you signed! – calling for Boris Johnson to pull funding for a gas mega project in Mozambique. #StopFundingFossils pic.twitter.com/nfSfqxs0cM
— Friends of the Earth (@friends_earth) December 6, 2021
A group of academics have also sent an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The project is “not in line” with the 1.5 degree Celsius target, it said. It is “inappropriate” for the government to “provide financial support for one of the largest fossil fuel projects in Africa”.
Mozambique LNG will do little to tackle local energy access issues, the letter continued. The UK would do better to provide funds to develop the region’s renewable energy potential, it said.
Work on the $20 billion Mozambique LNG is currently on pause under a force majeure declaration. This was a result of a militant attack on a nearby settlement earlier this year.
Last month, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Max Tonela said work may restart by the end of the year. TotalEnergies has been more cautious, suggesting it may take another year. If correct, it could reach first LNG in 2026.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) continues to believe gas plans in Mozambique can help the country grow economically.
A local representative, speaking in November, said preventing Mozambique from developing gas “disproportionately penalises a country that has not contributed to the creation of the problem and that is a poorer country”.
Updated at 1:56 pm with petition and letter addition.