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UK ministers could face legal challenge over North Sea oil exploration

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UK ministers could face legal challenge over North Sea oil exploration

The UK government could face a fresh legal challenge over fears that ministers may wave through plans for oil drillers to keep exploring for new North Sea reserves without considering the latest evidence of its impact on the environment.

Lawyers from ClientEarth, an environmental law charity, wrote to Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, days before the start of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow to warn against approving projects such as the controversial Cambo oilfield development by relying on outdated climate checks.

In the letter dated 29 October, ClientEarth warned the government that any decision on offshore oil and gas developments must consider their full climate impact or its lawyers would be “prepared to challenge” ministers through a judicial review.

Sam Hunter Jones, a lawyer at ClientEarth, accused the government of being “asleep at the wheel” and said ministers risked making decisions based on out-of-date climate assessments unless it adopted new criteria reflecting growing international evidence against new fossil fuel developments.

The government was due to set out new environmental assessment criteria to guide decisions on whether to allow North Sea projects before the end of the year, but has not issued an update since opening a consultation in May.

“Ahead of Cop26, where the UK government is positioning itself as a leader on climate action, it’s difficult to understand why work on this vital assessment is not moving forward with urgency,” Hunter Jones said. He said the impact assessment currently being used was “severely out of step with the recent authoritative warnings on the action necessary to avoid catastrophic global heating”.

Ministers announced in the spring that they would allow oil drillers to keep exploring the North Sea for new reserves, despite the government’s pledge to reduce UK carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, as long as they passed a “climate compatibility” test in addition to the existing environmental checks.

It later emerged that a major new development backed by Royal Dutch Shell at the Cambo oilfield in the North Sea would not be required to face the compatibility test because technically the plans were an “extension” to an existing licence.

Hunter Jones said decisions on new North Sea oil and gas projects like the Cambo oilfield “risk fatally undermining efforts to meet the world’s climate targets by locking in polluting infrastructure and emissions for decades to come”.

The government already faces a potential legal threat from Greenpeace over its refusal to rule out the Cambo oilfield, which triggered an outcry from climate experts and green campaigners in Scotland.

The Cambo field is expected to produce 170m barrels of oil in its first phase, or the equivalent of the annual emissions of 18 new coal-fired power plants, according to Friends of the Earth.

A stark report from the International Energy Agency this year said there could be no new development of oil and gas fields if the world was to stay within safe limits of global heating and meet the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

A government spokesperson said the UK could not have “a cliff-edge where oil and gas are abandoned overnight” and that if the UK stopped producing gas “this would put energy security, British jobs and industries at risk, and we would be even more dependent on foreign imports.”

Official figures show that the UK’s reserves stood at 4.4bn barrels of oil at the end of last year, or enough to sustain production until 2030 without any additional exploration.

“While we ramp up renewable energy capacity, this ongoing but diminishing need for oil and gas over the coming years will continue,” the government spokesperson said.

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Environment

Alake Unveils Mining Marshals To Secure Mining Sites

In fulfilment of a major plank of his 7-point agenda to create a new security architecture to secure mining sites, the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Dele Alake has unveiled a 2,200-strong Mines Marshal to smoke out illegal miners and all those who flout the nation’s mining laws.

Formally receiving the marshals drawn from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) from the Commandant-General, Abubakar Audi, representing the Minister of Interior, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, Alake charged the new operatives to stem theft and all nefarious activities around the nation’s mineral resources so that the nation can reap maximum benefits from its God-given resources.

It will be recalled that as a result of the efforts of the presidential Inter-ministerial committee on securing natural resources chaired by Dr. Alake, the Minister of Interior, Hon. Olubunmi Ojo, a few weeks ago launched the NSCDC-led mines marshal, which represents the first layer of the new security architecture to secure the mining environment.

With a command structure spread across the 36 states and the FCT, the mines marshal will have their command and control domiciled in the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development(MSMD), with an initial 60 operatives deployed in each state and the FCT.

Highlighting the role played by his interior counterpart in the evolution of the new security outfit, Dr. Alake commended Hon. Olubunmi-Ojo for putting words to actions and working tirelessly with the solid minerals ministry to achieve the feat.

“Today’s event of unveiling and formally handing over the specially trained and selected civil defence structure to engage illegal miners and sanitise our mining environment was also part of what we conceived at the inter-ministerial committee chaired by me. I am very happy to let the public know that from the outset we said are going to tackle insecurity in the mining sector and the first batch of the security apparati is what we are launching today, the Minister added.

The mines marshal devised to be an inter-agency security outfit will incorporate special operatives from other security agencies like the Nigeria Police, army, amongst others. Its operations will largely be technologically driven.

In his remarks, NSCDC Commandant-General, Abubakar Audi stated that the new mines marshal will give verve to the corps’ mandate of protecting national assets and infrastructure in which solid minerals is a major component.

Audi revealed that the marshals will liaise with mine inspectorate in states to garner intelligence and take directives from the ministry for effective execution of its mandate.

“We have a list of illegal miners across the nation, and we will go after them. Their days are now numbered, “Audi declared.

The Chairman, House Committee on Solid Minerals, Hon. Jonathan Gbefwi, who graced the occasion, expressed satisfaction with the new security outfit, noting that with improved security around mining areas, Nigeria’s economic fortunes is bound for a forward leap.

” When the Minister reeled out his 7-point agenda during his inaugural address, which included the Mines Police, not a few people were sceptical about it. But today, he has matched words with action. On behalf of the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I doff my hat for him and say, “Well done.” You can be rest assured of the continued support and cooperation of the House of Reps and, by extension, the National Assembly, Hon. Gbefwi said.

The new Mines Marshal is led by a Commander, Chief Superintendent of Corps, CSC Attah John Onoja.

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Environment

NiMET Predicts 3-day sunshine, thunderstorms

There will be sunshine and thunderstorms from Saturday to Monday across the country, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has predicted.

A release on Friday in Abuja, according to NiMet’s weather outlook, forecasts a sunny atmosphere over the northern region on Saturday, with chances of morning thunderstorms over parts of Kebbi and Sokoto states.

“Thunderstorms are also expected over parts of Kaduna, Kebbi,and Zamfara states later in the day,” the agency reports.

It explained that the sunny atmosphere with patches of clouds is anticipated over the north-central cities, with chances of morning thunderstorms over parts of Niger, adding that during the afternoon and evening hours, thunderstorms are anticipated over parts of Niger, the Federal Capital Territory, and Plateau states.

It also explained that a cloudy atmosphere with spells of sunshine is expected over the inland states and the coastal cities of the south, with prospects of morning thunderstorms over parts of Cross River and Akwa Ibom states.

The agency envisaged that there would be thunderstorms over parts of Ondo, Ekiti, Ogun, Osun, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Lagos, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers states later in the day and anticipates a sunny atmosphere over the northern region on Sunday, with prospects of thunderstorms over parts of Kaduna, Adamawa, Taraba, Borno, and Bauchi states during the afternoon and evening hours.

It also predicted a sunny atmosphere with patches of clouds over the North Central cities with prospects of afternoon and evening thunderstorms over parts of the Federal Capital Territory, Kwara, Benue, and Plateau states, as well as a cloudy atmosphere with spells of sunshine is expected over the inland states later in the day.

According to the agency, there would be prospects of thunderstorms over parts of Oyo, Osun, Edo, Ogun, Ekiti, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, and Lagos states in the afternoon and evening periods.

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Environment

NiMET forecasts 3-day sunshine, haziness

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NiMet, has forecast sunshine and haziness from Monday to Wednesday nationwide.

NiMet’s weather outlook released on Sunday in Abuja, predicted sunny and hazy atmosphere on Monday over the northern region throughout the forecast period.

It said cloudy skies with intervals of sunshine are expected over the North Central states with prospects of localised thunderstorms over parts of Benue State during the morning hours.

“Later in the day, localised thunderstorms are anticipated over parts of Benue and Kogi.

“Increased cloudy condition is anticipated in the morning hours over Inland states of South and coastal cities with chances of morning thunderstorms over parts of Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, Abia, Cross River, Rivers and Delta states.

“Later in the day, localised thunderstorms are anticipated over parts of Osun, Ekiti, Ogun, Edo, Ondo, Oyo, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Anambra, Cross River, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Lagos states,“ it said.

The agency said that a sunny and hazy atmosphere is expected over the northern region throughout the forecast period on Tuesday with chances of localized thunderstorms over parts of Taraba and Kaduna stakes during the evening hours.

It expected patches of clouds over the North Central region with prospects of isolated thunderstorms over parts of Kogi, Nasarawa, Benue and the Federal Capital Territory during the morning hours.

The agency forecast localised thunderstorms over parts of the Federal Capital Territory, Kwara, Nasarawa and Kogi states later in the day.

It envisaged cloudy skies over the inland areas of the South and the coastal cities with prospects of isolated thunderstorms over parts of Lagos State during the morning periods.

NiMet anticipated localised thunderstorms over parts of Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Anambra, Cross River, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Delta states in the afternoon and evening hours.

According to the agency, a sunny and hazy atmosphere is expected over the northern region throughout the forecast period on Wednesday.

“Increased cloudy condition with chances of early morning thunderstorms is expected over parts of Plateau, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory during the morning hours.

“Later in the day, localized thunderstorms are anticipated over parts of Kwara, Nasarawa and Kogi states.

“Cloudy skies are expected over inland cities of South and Coast with prospects of localised thunderstorms over parts of Imo, Ebonyi, Abia, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Lagos states in the morning hours,“ it said.

NiMet anticipated localized thunderstorms over parts of Abia, Ogun, Edo, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Bayelsa, River and Lagos States in the afternoon and evening hours.

The agency called on the public to take adequate precaution as strong winds might precede rains in areas where thunderstorms were likely to occur.

“Temperature values are still high especially in the North, please stay hydrated. Airline operators are advised to get updated weather reports and forecasts from NiMet for effective planning in their operations,” it said.

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