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Our incredible win could change the future of oil and gas in the UK | Sarah Finch

Thanks to the tireless work of campaigners in Surrey, fossil-fuel development must now take into account ‘downstream’ emissions

  • Sarah Finch is a climate campaigner and a member of the Weald Action Group

This week I found out what it feels like to go beyond your wildest dreams. A case I fronted won at the supreme court, with potentially huge positive impacts for the climate. For almost five years, I had been mounting a legal challenge to fossil-fuel production at Horse Hill in the Surrey countryside. A group of residents, activists and lawyers had been pursuing a routine legal review of a council planning decision that had given an oil company the green light to drill four new oil wells and produce oil for 20 years.

The supreme court ruling means it will now be much harder for new fossil-fuel projects to go ahead as their full climate impact will need to be factored in from the start. Our challenge centred on the fact that the oil produced by the Horse Hill site would inevitably be burned, throwing carbon into the atmosphere and heating the planet. We expected it to be a routine legal procedure lasting six months. But as the case came together, its wider significance for the climate and the fossil-fuel industry at large became clearer, and months turned into years as it worked its way through the courts.

Sarah Finch is a climate campaigner and a member of the Weald Action Group

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