The UK government was wrong to conclude that committing $1.15bn (£867m) to a contentious Mozambique gas project was compatible with the Paris Agreement, the High Court has been told.
Friends of the Earth brought the challenge in an attempt to block the funding – provided in the form of direct loans and guarantees via UK Export Finance – for the $20bn project developed by Total.
The activist group’s lawyer told the court that the project was in breach of the UK’s climate change obligations under the Paris Agreement, and that its compatibility and impacts were not sufficiently assessed.
Lawyers for the Government argue that the claim should be dismissed, saying the financing, via guarantees and loans, was aligned with its commitment under the Paris Agreement to support developing countries’ response to the challenges of climate change.
Jessica Simor QC, for Friends of the Earth, said that although the funding could have been in line with Mozambique’s own climate action plan, the project was “not consistent with the low emissions pathway and climate resilient development”.
She said this would make it “impossible in reality for Mozambique to meet its climate commitments” under the Paris Agreement.
Ms Simor argued that developed countries such as the UK had an “obligation” to developing countries not just to meet their climate action plans – known as nationally determined contributions – but “augment and improve” them too.
Under the Paris Agreement, a legally binding climate change treaty, more than 190 countries agreed to attempt to limit global warming to well below 2C and preferably 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. To achieve this goal, countries must aim to reach peak global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.
The case is ongoing and will on Wednesday hear from the defence on behalf of the international trade secretary and president of the Board of Trade.
Sir James Eadie QC, for the government, said in written submissions that the financing decision was taken “following the exercise of judgment at the highest levels of government”.
He added that other “public interest issues” considered were “the benefit to UK businesses from the contracts supported by export finance” and the “transformational economic benefits that would flow to Mozambique”.
The judicial review is scheduled to conclude on Thursday, with a judgement expected in the new year.
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