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Climate activists defeated as legal bid to stop UK building Europe’s biggest gas power plant fails

The Guardian

A legal challenge to the UK government’s approval of a new gas-fired power plant has failed in the court of appeal.

Drax is planning to build new combined cycle gas turbine generating units in Drax power station, near the town of Selby. Photograph: Drax Group Plc

The challenge was brought after ministers overruled climate change objections from the planning authority. The plant is being developed by Drax in North Yorkshire and would be the biggest gas power station in Europe. It could account for 75% of the UK’s power sector emissions when fully operational, according to lawyers for ClientEarth, which brought the judicial review.

In 2019 the Planning Inspectorate recommended that ministers refuse permission for the 3.6GW gas plant on the grounds that it “would undermine the government’s commitment, as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008, to cut greenhouse emissions [by having] significant adverse effects.”

Andrea Leadsom, the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy at the time of the planning application, rejected the advice and gave the project the go-ahead in October 2019. The high court rejected ClientEarth’s initial legal challenge last May.

The UK is under international scrutiny as it prepares to host a UN climate summit in November. The country has cut its carbon emissions by 41% since 1990 and in 2019 was the first major economy to put into law a commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Boris Johnson produced a plan for a “green industrial revolution” in November.

But the government has been criticised for failing to stop a new coalmine in Cumbria, which it said was a local issue. This comment was derided by campaigners, and MPs warned it undermined the purpose of the Cop26 summit. Another, smaller gas plant is under construction by SSE in Lincolnshire.

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