United Kingdom

R (Finch) v Surrey County Council

Jurisdiction: High Court of England and Wales

Principle law(s): Climate Change Act

Side A: Sarah Finch (Individual)

Side B: Surrey County Council (Government)

Side C: Friends of the Earth (Ngo)

Core objectives:

Whether a developer of an oil extraction project is required to provide an environmental statement regarding the consumption emissions from the development

This case concerns Surrey County Council's decisions to transit planning permission to a company named Horse Hill Developments Limited to expand an existing site to add four new wells for the production of hydrocarbons (crude oil) over a 25 year period. The environmental statement issued by the developer provided an assessment of the direct (scope 1 and 2) greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project but did not assess the emissions that would subsequently be produced as a result of using the product (scope 3 emissions). 

The claimant argued that Surrey County Council's failure to consider these emissions in determining whether to approve the project was a breach of the UK's obligations under European Union Law (Directive 2011/92/EU, the "EIA Directive"). They argued either that Surrey County Council had misinterpreting relevant national regulations in determining that the consumption based emissions could be excluded from the assessment, or that the relevant regulations were unlawful because they were in conflict with the EIA Directive. They also argued that the consumption emissions from the project should have been considered in relation to the UK's net zero target.

The case was dismissed by the High Court on the basis that "the assessment of GHG emissions from the future combustion of refined oil products...was, as a matter of law, incapable of falling within the scope to the EIA required by the 2017 Regulations for the planning application." The case was subsequently appealed and the appeal hearings took place on 16-17 November 2021.

Case documents

Related laws and policies
  • This law implements United Kingdom legislation
    Climate Change Act

    Passed in 2008 Legislative

    The Act provides a long-term framework to improve carbon management, to help the transition to a low carbon economy, encourage investment in low carbon goods and provide an international signal. The Act establishes a legally binding target for the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net z...

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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