Environmental campaigners are bringing a High Court challenge over the Government’s decision to open a new round of North Sea oil and gas licensing.

Greenpeace and Uplift will contest the decision that a new round of offshore fossil fuel licensing is compatible with the UK’s climate goals in court on Tuesday.

Ministers opened the 33rd round of oil and gas licensing last October.

The Government has since received more than 100 bids for exploration and development.

Greenpeace and Uplift, which campaigns for a fossil fuel-free UK, are expected to argue ministers have failed to assess properly the impact of the new licensing round, and failed to consider reasonable alternatives.

The Government will oppose their arguments in court.

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Philip Evans, Greenpeace UK’s climate campaigner, said: “We’re in the High Court today to hold the Government to account on their reckless decision to approve new oil and gas without properly checking the damage it will do to the climate.

“It’s a scandal that the Government is attempting to ignore over 80% of emissions generated by new fossil fuel developments in their decision-making process, and in fact it’s unlawful.”

Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift, said: “How can this Government even think about pressing ahead with new drilling when we can all now see what the burning of fossil fuels is doing to our climate?

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“It’s difficult to imagine today’s extreme heat around the world getting worse, but it will if we don’t get off oil and gas.

“The grounds for challenging these new licences is clear, but we shouldn’t have to take the Government to court. There is no public benefit from new licensing: most of the UK’s gas is gone and the majority of the oil that’s left will be exported.”

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Licences are being made available for sectors of the North Sea – known as blocks – with sector regulator the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) estimating more than 100 may be granted.

Companies are being urged to apply for licences covering areas to the west of Shetland, in the northern North Sea, the central North Sea, the southern North Sea and east Irish Sea.

The NSTA has also identified four “priority cluster areas” off the coast of Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, that are close to existing infrastructure, giving them the potential to be developed quickly.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has previously backed new oil and gas exploration, claiming that new homegrown fossil fuels are necessary for the UK’s transition towards net zero.

The hearing is scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.