Greenpeace takes government to court over Jackdaw gas field

Campaigners claim ignoring emissions is unlawful


  • Officials refused to assess emissions generated from burning Jackdaw gas, activists argue government failed in its legal duty.
  • Campaigners call out government disconnect of approving Jackdaw in June and declaring national emergency over heatwaves in July. 
  • Gas from Jackdaw won’t belong to the UK, so won’t lower energy bills, but will generate more CO2 than the annual emissions of Ghana. 
  • Activists warn the government that they stand ready to take legal action every time it acts unlawfully to prioritise new fossil fuels. 


GOVERNMENT today faces fresh legal action after it approved a new North Sea gas field without checking the climate damage of burning the gas extracted.

Greenpeace argues that the government failed in its legal duty [1] to check the environmental impacts of Shell’s Jackdaw project by refusing to consider the damage caused by burning the gas extracted [2]. 

The legal challenge comes as the UK endures a summer of unprecedented heat waves, with the gas from Jackdaw, when burnt, set to generate more CO2 than the annual emissions of Ghana [3]. And the Jackdaw gas will not even help ease the UK’s energy crisis, or have any effect on energy bills because it belongs to Shell, and will be sold on international markets to the highest bidder – something government officials have admitted [4].

Philip Evans, oil and gas transition campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said:
“This Jackdaw approval is a scandal. The government knows that burning fossil fuels drives the climate crisis, yet they’re approving a new gas field in June, without proper climate checks, and declaring a national emergency over heatwaves in July. 

“Meanwhile household bills are soaring, and the government is ignoring common sense solutions – like home insulation, heat pumps and cheap renewable power. We believe this is an astonishing dereliction of the government’s legal duty, and we won’t let it stand. So we’re taking legal action to stop Jackdaw, and whenever we see the government acting unlawfully to greenlight new fossil fuels we stand ready to fight in the courts.”

Climate campaigner Lauren MacDonald said: “It is completely irrational for the government to approve – and heavily subsidise – a project like Jackdaw that does nothing to address the energy price crisis while contributing to climate change. Our dependence on fossil fuels is at the root of both crises, yet the government continues to try and  plough ahead with new oil and gas projects. This is why we need legal action. As long as the government carries on down this path – ignoring the pressing need to insulate homes and rollout cheaper renewables – they will face backlash and legal challenges”

The government’s failures on climate and on the North Sea transition is becoming a regular legal headache for them. Just last week the High Court ruled that the government’s net zero strategy is inadequate and unlawful, and has given the government eight months to fix it [5]. 

And Jackdaw becomes the latest fossil fuel project bogged down in legal uncertainty. 

In a separate legal action, Greenpeace is seeking permission from the Supreme Court to challenge BP’s permit to extract oil from the Vorlich field. The campaign group lost its initial bid against Vorlich in the Scottish Courts where the government unashamedly argued climate is “not relevant” to decisions around fossil fuel permits [6]. Campaigners have also threatened legal action if the government approves a controversial new oil field at Cambo. 

The government has tied itself in knots on this issue. Last year it promised a “climate compatibility checkpoint” would be applied to decisions on new fossil fuel licences, so that new exploration for fossil fuels could only go ahead if deemed to align with net zero. But the announcement was criticised when it transpired the government had created a loophole so that the new checkpoint would not apply to new permits for individual projects, like Cambo or Jackdaw [7]. 

And more recently Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, COP26 President Alok Sharma and Energy Minister Greg Hands have all stated publicly that ramping up UK gas production would have no significant impact on wholesale gas prices [4]. Yet just a few months later Kwarteng granted the Jackdaw permit. 

Courts in Scotland will now decide whether to grant Greenpeace permission to proceed with the legal challenge, which may be paused until after the separate Vorlich case is decided by the Supreme Court. 


Spokespeople are available for interviews. Contact the Greenpeace press office: 


Notes to editors

[1] Under the Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Production, Unloading and Storage (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2020, Schedule 6, the regulator has a legal duty to consider, amongst other things, the risks to human health and the environment, including from indirect, secondary, cumulative, short-term, medium-term and long-term, permanent and temporary, positive and negative effects, including transboundary effects of a new oil or gas project. 

[2] Secretary of State Decision to agree to or refuse to OGA granting of consent, pg 5, states “In general, OPRED does not consider that emissions resulting from end use of oil and gas produced from offshore field development projects such as Jackdaw are a matter for individual project environmental statements.”

[3]  When burnt, the gas from Jackdaw will produce more CO2 than the annual emissions of Ghana – Methodology:

  • Rystad energy’s Ucube database estimates that 284.4 billion cubic feet (BCF) of gas will be extracted from Jackdaw and 2 million barrels of non-gas liquids.
  • CO2 emissions from the combustion of gas are calculated by multiplying the figure for BCF by a conversion factor of 54,740, yielding 15.6 million tonnes of CO2.

284.4 BCF x 54,740 = 15.6m tonnes

  • CO2 emissions from the combustion of non-gas liquids are calculated by multiplying the BOE figure by a conversion factor of 0.24, yielding 0.48 million tonnes.

2m BOE x 0.24 = 0.48m tonnes

  • So the total emissions from burning the fuels extracted from Jackdaw amount to 16.08 million tonnes. That figure is more than the entire annual emissions of the country of Ghana in 2020 which were 16.00m tonnes.  

[4] Kwasi Kwarteng twitter thread 28/02/22: “…the UK has no gas supply issues. The situation we are facing is a price issue, not a security of supply issue. Put simply: we have lots of gas from highly diverse and secure sources – but it is very expensive…

“The wholesale price of gas has *quadrupled* in UK and Europe. Additional UK production won’t materially affect the wholesale market price.UK producers won’t sell shale gas to UK consumers below the market price. They’re not charities.

“…the long-term solution is obvious: gas is more expensive than renewable energy, so we need to move away from gas.”

Greg Hands, The Times, 14/02/22: dismissed suggestions that increased North Sea production could bring down prices, saying that it would have only a “minimal impact”. “North Sea gas production is a very small part of global gas production. It’s the global price that sets the UK price,” he said.

Alok Sharma, Sky News, 24/01/22: COP26 president Alok Sharma MP has told Sky News that extracting more gas from the North Sea is not a “realistic” strategy for bringing down energy prices for UK consumers. “The idea that you will suddenly change things, and that will impact the price of wholesale gas internationally, I don’t think that is realistic.”

[5] Government’s net zero climate strategy ‘unlawful’ as heatwave temperatures soar

[6] Greenpeace vs. Government on oil permits: government argues climate ‘not relevant’ to permit decisions

[7] Green groups’ fury at loophole in new North Sea oil test, Guardian, June 2021

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