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Taking the government to court over fossil fuel subsidies



The UK is the second-largest oil and gas producer in Europe and provides more subsidies to the fossil fuel industry than any country in the EU. The government has a legal commitment to ‘maximising economic recovery’ (MER) of offshore oil and gas. It has refused to rule out licensing new oil and gas exploration although the International Energy Agency says no investment in new fossil fuel production is justified if the world is to limit global heating to 1.5°C.


We supported Uplift in launching the Paid To Pollute campaign, taking the government to court over its oil & gas strategy. The claimants argue it is unlawful because it supports production that is only economic due to huge public subsidies; and irrational because it conflicts with the UK’s 2050 net zero target. We launched the legal claim, case permission and High Court hearing, released polling results ahead of the G7 Summit, and research showing the UK government gifted £14bn to the oil & gas industry since the Paris Agreement.


We delivered extensive UK and Scottish media coverage with more than 350 pieces in total. Highlights included articles in Reuters, The Guardian, The Observer, FT, Sky News, Daily Telegraph, The Independent, Euronews, top Scottish titles The Herald, The Scotsman, The National, and an interview for claimant Mikaela Loach on BBC Radio 4. Articles were shared on social media almost 6K times. The campaign was shared on social media by Greta Thunberg, and Mikaela Loach’s campaign video received over half a million views.


Media coverage has greatly influenced the ‘just transition’ debate in Scotland, with several prominent opinion pieces citing the court case’s importance in Scotland’s quest for new green jobs. The government was forced to respond to the legal case in the High Court in December, and if the claimants are successful, it could see an end to the MER strategy and tax breaks for the UK oil & gas industry.

Media Coverage