End oil and gas subsidies for ‘green and just’ transition, campaigner who took government to court says

·2 min read
Mikaela Loach was one of the three climate campaigners who took the government to court (AFP via Getty Images)
Mikaela Loach was one of the three climate campaigners who took the government to court (AFP via Getty Images)

The UK needs to stop subsidising the oil and gas industry to enable a “green and just transition” away from fossil fuels, an environmental campaigner who took the government to court has said.

Mikaela Loach told The Independent she believes the mainstream campaign against these financial incentives has just begun, despite the High Court ruling against her case on the issue on Tuesday.

The medical student was one of three environmentalists who launched a legal challenge against the business secretary and a state-owned authority over a drive to encourage oil and gas production in the North Sea, arguing it was not economic and incompatible with a duty to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The trio said they were looking to appeal after the court ruled in the government’s favour.

“This case and the decision doesn’t mean it is the end of campaigning around this issue,” Ms Loach told The Independent.

She said one of the functions of climate litigation was to get information made public and the issue in mainstream media - and they succeeded in this respect.

“People haven’t really been talking about oil and gas subsidies at all - at least not in the UK - and they are so important,” she said.

“Tackling these subsidies is one of the most important things we need to do if we want to get a green and just transition, if we want to move away from fossil fuels.”

The term “just transition” means a shift to a cleaner energy that also does not leave behind workers in polluting industries.

Instead of an end to North Sea oil and gas overnight, Ms Loach called for a transition away from fossil fuels - and said removing subsidies was a key part of this.

Earlier this year, unions, political parties and charities called for a tax on the North Sea giants’ profits amid the energy crisis, with household bills expected to soar further this spring.

Ahead of their High Court case, Ms Loach and her fellow claimants said their research revealed oil and gas firms had benefited from more than £13bn from the UK government since the Paris Agreement - which vowed to limit global warming to well below 2C - was drawn up in 2015.

There was nearly £10bn in tax relief for new exploration and production of oil and gas and £3.7bn in payments towards decommissioning costs given out between 2016 and 2020, they said.

Critics have suggested these measures amount to subsiding the fossil fuel industry.

A UK government spokesperson said: “The UK does not give any subsidies to fossil fuels.”

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