Friends of the Earth Ltd, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for International Trade/UK Export Finance (UKEF) & Anor (Rev1)  EWCA Civ 14 - 13 January 2023
The main issue in this appeal is whether the UK Government acted unlawfully in approving UKEF's $1.15 billion investment in a liquified natural gas project in Mozambique (the project). The Divisional Court (Stuart-Smith LJ and Thornton J) could not agree on the outcome, and the application by Friends of the Earth for judicial review of the Government's decision (the decision) was dismissed. Both judges gave substantive judgments, and none of the facts that they recited in their judgments has been contested before us. The argument has, however, assumed a rather different focus in this court.
We recognise at the outset that the 197 state parties to the Paris Agreement of 12 December 2015 (the Paris Agreement) said that climate change represented an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and "thus require[d] the widest possible cooperation by all countries, and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions". Notwithstanding that stark statement of the position, this case concerns an application for judicial review of UK Government decision-making and is to be determined, as the parties agree, on the basis of accepted and familiar principles of public law. Nothing we say in this judgment should be construed as supporting or opposing any political view of the issues. Our task is only to establish whether the decision is vitiated by an error of law.