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Gas project in Mozambique – challenging the UK government’s support

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Update – 17th March 2022

On 7 December Friends of the Earth challenged the UK government’s decision to provide financial support for a liquified natural gas (LNG) project in Mozambique; specifically, making a case against UK Export Finance (UKEF) on the grounds that:

  • the decision was made on the incorrect basis that the project was consistent with the UK and/or Mozambique’s commitments under the Paris Agreement
  • the defendants failed to consider essential issues or carry out the necessary analysis to properly determine if supporting the project aligned with the UK’s and Mozambique’s obligations under the Paris Agreement

The verdict

On the 16th March we got the news that a High Court Judge has ruled that the UK’s decision to support the multi-billion-dollar gas project in Mozambique was unlawful. However, a disagreement between the two judges on the case splits the court meaning an appeal is likely needed to reach a definitive outcome and break legal limbo.

We maintain that due to a High Court Judge identifying the decision as unlawful UKEF should take corrective action and retake the decision to finance the project. While it’s disappointing that both judges didn’t agree with us, the judgment in our favour is highly significant in its finding that UKEF acted unlawfully. 

The verdict’s significance

The case tests what it takes to comply with the Paris Agreement. The ruling is significant as Mrs Justice Thornton interprets that investments and financing are a core part of the Paris Agreement. The judge found that UKEF had not provided evidence to show that this investment was in line with the Paris Agreement and thus it was unlawful. This finding increases legal risks for investors and operators of climate-wrecking projects globally that do not show alignment with the Paris Agreement when providing financing.

What is UKEF?

UKEF stands for UK Export Finance. It’s the UK’s export credit agency and a government body. Last July it pledged $1 billion of taxpayer money to support an LNG project in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.

The project would breach the UK’s climate commitments to keep within 1.5 degrees of warming, with the emissions from the use of the gas that’s extracted estimated to be equivalent to the total emissions from the aviation sector for all EU member states combined. Read more about the agency here    .

What do Mozambicans think about this?

The LNG project has been embroiled in conflict and displacement since 2017.  Hundreds of families have been displaced from their land and fishing grounds    . These families have been moved miles inland away from the sea and without the farming lands promised to them so are now struggling to make a living without their traditional livelihoods.

There’s also evidence that energy companies have paid the government to deploy soldiers to protect their interests (the gas). Increased military presence has led to reports of human rights abuses by the army, such as killing local people and extorting and blackmailing families for the financial compensation they received from Total.

For a more in-depth look at the impacts on Mozambicans read Justiça Ambiental’s report  Gas in Mozambique: A windfall for the industry, a curse for the country    . You can also  listen to a short interview    with Justiça Ambiental’s Daniel Ribeiro on the project and its effect on local people, or read their director Anabela Lemos’ first-hand account

Why is this important and what can you do?

Thank you to everyone who contacted their MP to let them know that you will not stand by while taxpayers money continues to fund fossil fuels and human rights abuses. Collectively we can stop this.

If you would like to get involved in next steps including later writing to MPs and newspapers please get in touch-

See below for links to more details on the Mozambique project and link to a poster (png) your MP can print for use in a photo to share on social media.

More information

Friends of the Earth Briefing – Funding the fire: UK support for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in Mozambique

Friends of the Earth International: Gas in Mozambique: A windfall for the industry, a curse for the country

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