The High Court has refused environmental NGO ClientEarth’s application for permission for judicial review of the decision taken by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to approve the prospectus of an oil and gas operator Ithaca Energy plc: R (on the application of ClientEarth) v Financial Conduct Authority [2023] EWHC 3301 (Admin).

This was an innovative attempt by an environmental NGO to use an existing statutory and regulatory regime to introduce heightened climate change considerations. However, the court made it clear that it was not part of the FCA’s function to evaluate the extent to which a prospectus may or may not promote climate change mitigation or net-zero targets. The court respected the discretion and decision making of the FCA as an expert regulator and limited itself to applying established public law principles despite the broader context of the climate crisis.

Although unsuccessful, the challenge highlights the increased scrutiny on climate issues and growing pressure on a wider range of regulators and public authorities who are not traditionally seen as operating in the environmental sphere.

It is also notable that the court was not prepared to classify the claim as environmental for the purposes of allowing costs protection for the claimant, which may serve to discourage other such speculative claims.

For more information see this post on our Public Law Notes blog.