Arguments Used in Blocking Fossil Fuel Projects
This is part of a series on arguments that can be used in climate litigation. For more articles in this series, see the arguments series.
For another great resource on this topic, check out the Action 4 Justice Climate Litigation Guide
General Strategies for Blocking Fossil Fuel Projects
To stop climate change, we need to challenge projects that will result in continued fossil fuel emissions. Projects that increase greenhouse gas emissions include oil exploration and drilling, coal mines, fracking, oil and gas pipelines, fossil fuel-fired power plants, deforestation, and the expansion of airports, roads, and ports.
- Fossil-fuel projects can be challenged on non-climate related grounds, such as conventional air pollution, impacts to an endangered species, or failure to follow administrative law.
- Fossil fuel projects can be challenged on human rights grounds because of the human rights impacts of climate change.
Challenging Fossil Fuel Projects on Procedural Grounds
- Challenges can be based on an inadequate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). If an EIA was not carried out or was carried out but did not consider the climate impact of the project, the approval can be challenged on those grounds. See WildEarth Guardians v. BLM and South African Thabametsi coal plant case
- Challenges can also be based on a lack of public participation in the decision-making process. See the Save Lamu case and Stephenson v. Secretary of State
Challenging Fossil Fuel Projects on Substantive Grounds
Challenges under National Law
- The project violates national laws or regulations. These laws can be climate focused or not.
- The project threatens national human rights law (Friends of the Earth v. Total)
- The project is not in the public interest as defined by national law. (Gloucester Resources Limited v. Minister for Planning)
- Inadequate consideration of climate change impacts, such as falling to consider the latest climate science or the government's latest obligations under international agreements. (Heathrow expansion case, Ecology Action v. Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Fridays for Future Estonia v. Eesti Energia, and ClientEarth v. Sec. of State)
Challenges on Humans Rights and Constitutional Rights
- The project violates the Right to a Healthy Environment (Greenpeace Nordic Ass’n v. Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Kobe foal-fired power plant case (Japan))
- The project violates the right to life (Youth Verdict v. Waratah Coal)
- The project violates the rights of children (Youth Verdict v. Waratah Coal)
- The project violates the Public Trust Doctrine (Ali v. Pakistan)
- A4J Template for cases challenging fossil fuel projects on procedural grounds
- A4J Template for challenging fossil fuel projects on substantive grounds
- ELAW resource on challenging coal projects