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The United Kingdom’s top court ruled this week that the impact on the climate from fossil fuels must now be considered when approving new drilling sites projects, a landmark verdict that deals a blow to the oil and gas industry in the country, Euronews reported.

The case centers on a lawsuit by campaigner Sarah Finch, on behalf of the environmental group Weald Action Group, against a local council’s decision to extend planning permission for an oil drilling well in Horse Hill, in southeastern England, in 2019.

In her suit, Finch claimed that officials assessing the environmental impact of projects must also consider the greenhouse emissions generated from using oil and gas, not just the emissions produced by the drilling and extraction itself.

The council countered that it had the discretion to determine the full impact a project would have, but the Supreme Court ruled otherwise.

In its ruling, three out of five judges found that “once oil has been extracted from the ground, the carbon contained within it will sooner or later be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and so will contribute to global warming,” the Guardian noted.

Observers explained that the court’s decision essentially considers the future environmental impacts of using these fossil fuels, commonly referred to as ‘scope 3’, or downstream emissions.

The top court also said that the broader geographical impacts of newly extracted fossil fuels should be considered, rather than restricting assessments to the areas in and around the drilling sites.

While the verdict does not restrict public officials from approving projects with big climate impacts, it reinforces the case of refusing them. Some observers noted that it could encourage climate advocates to sue the government’s decision to approve a new coal mine in northwestern England – a move that had been delayed pending the Horse Hill verdict.

Finch and other climate groups welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision as “a welcome step towards a safer, fairer future.”

The decision is another victory for environmental advocates.

It comes months after the UK withdrew from an international treaty that allowed fossil fuel firms to sue governments pursuing climate policies that affect their profits, the BBC wrote.

The government withdrew from the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) in February, saying the agreement was “outdated.”

The treaty aimed to make energy trading easier among countries – but also sparked a myriad of lawsuits by companies against governments, claiming their investments had been damaged by green policies such as renewable-energy subsidies.

Even so, the Supreme Court’s verdict, the withdrawal from the ECT and the windfall taxes on profits of these companies have prompted some big oil and gas giants to consider exiting the British market.

For example, major players, such as Shell and BP, said they are abandoning their North Sea oil operations, which could destabilize the UK energy market, which remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels due to insufficient green energy investments, analysts said.

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