Read and use the case papers for our legal challenge to the UK government over its backing of a climate-wrecking gas megaproject in Mozambique. That backing included providing over $1 billion of taxpayer money to finance the project.

Alexandra Musset13 Apr 2022

We say the UK government’s financing of TotalEnergies' liquid natural gas plant in Mozambique was unlawful. We are sharing the court papers so people can see our detailed arguments.

Grounds for challenge

We had 2 grounds of challenge. In essence:

  1. The decision was based on an incorrect understanding of the Paris Agreement because the funding of such a large new fossil fuel project was plainly not consistent with the Paris Agreement when considering the latest science.
  2. The decision was reached without "lawful enquiry", i.e. UKEF (United Kingdom Export Finance) failed to take reasonable steps to gather essential information, such as an estimate of the total emissions from the project (including emissions from the end-use of the gas). 

The following links will download the PDF of each document automatically.

Background

In September 2020 Friends of the Earth (England, Wales, NI) issued a legal challenge to the UK Government’s decision to provide around $1.15 billion of UK taxpayer support for a huge liquified natural gas (LNG) development in Mozambique. The decision is one of the largest financial packages for a fossil fuel project ever offered by the UK export credit agency (ECA) – UK Export Finance (UKEF). The potential climate impacts are huge, with the construction phase alone increasing the greenhouse gas emissions of Mozambique by up to 10% by 2022. And those emissions would be dwarfed by the emissions caused by the end-use of the gas, for example in power stations.  

In December 2021 our case was heard in the High Court. Because it was a big case, we had two judges sitting rather than one.  Among other things, they scrutinised UKEF’s climate assessment and its conclusion that the project was compatible with the Paris Agreement (despite there being no calculation of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project). 

Our litigation was the first time a UKEF funding decision had been looked at by the UK courts on climate grounds. In addition to the climate arguments, the case is important because ECA decisions remain largely hidden from the public eye, despite backing controversial projects with not only huge climate impacts but wide-ranging social and human impacts too. We know that large fossil fuel projects with high-risk profiles, such as the Mozambique LNG project, would not be possible without the support of governments and their ECAs from across the world.  

In March 2022 the High Court gave its judgment, with the two judges split. One agreed with us that the decision was unlawful, the other concluded it was lawful. They gave us permission to take our case to the Court of Appeal. For more detail see our most recent legal briefing. 

This challenge has been fairly unique in legal terms because an overall consensus was not reached by the court of just two judges. This meant that our case could not achieve full success, despite the fact that a High Court Justice ruled in our favour.  

We look forward to returning to court to settle our claim once and for all. We believe that UK money can, and should be pulled from this highly damaging project which is on course to have a catastrophic impact on our planet. The government’s actions were ruled unlawful by Mrs Justice Thornton and we firmly believe this both strengthens our case at appeal and means the UK government should immediately review and withdraw public finance from this development. 

Our case forms part of the exciting and growing body of climate change litigation that seeks to rely on the Paris Agreement and keep key actors accountable for climate breakdown. In recent times we have seen similar cases like the huge win of Milieudefensie v Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands).

We hope these court papers will assist those examining ECA activity and performance in the environmental movement, particularly in relation to climate change due diligence. The documents may be of particular assistance to legal professionals, academics and students.

 The Friends of the Earth legal team consists of Jessica Simor QC, Kate Cook, Anita Davies (all of Matrix Chambers), Leigh Day LLP and its own in-house legal specialists.

Further reading

Reports