Environmental Law and Natural Resources

Environmental Law and Natural Resources

Matrix’s environmental law team offers unrivalled specialist expertise in all areas of environmental law including international, EU and domestic litigation. We have been involved in the leading challenges relating to the climate change emergency and environmental destruction, both in domestic courts and at the international level, in recent years.

We have advised international organisations including UN bodies, states and NGOs from around the world on climate change, including in relation to climate finance and compliance with Paris goals, marine and fisheries policy, including the protection of the Arctic, trade related environmental regulation and biodiversity conservation, including the protection of forests. Our team has experience negotiating in international fora on behalf of states and others. We have conducted environmental litigation on issues including the protection of marine sites, the protection of whales, protection of international watercourses and transboundary environmental impact assessment in international courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), as well as in international arbitrations and at the UN/ECE Aarhus Compliance Committee. We have authored guidance published by a UN agency on lawyers’ duties in relation to due diligence and land tenure [insert link here] and on small scale fisheries and climate change (forthcoming).

We act in cases at the forefront of the development of environmental law, including the interplay between human rights law and environmental rights and resources. We acted for the family of the Inquest of Ella Kissi Debra, the first occasion in which a Court has established a link between air pollution and death.  We also act in group litigation against car manufacturers arising out of the ‘dieselgate’ scandals. In addition, the environmental law team have experience in representing groups against large companies for breach of human rights obligations. Examples include:

  • The Supreme Court case of HRH Okpabi v Royal Dutch Shell Plc [2021] UKSC 3, [2021] 1 W.L.R. 1294, a claim against Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDS) relating to extensive environmental damage to thousands of hectares of land and waterways as a result of numerous oil spills from its oil pipelines and infrastructure in the Niger Delta over many years.
  • In Vedanta Resources PLC & Anor v Lungowe & Ors [2019] UKSC 20, [2020] A.C. 1045 ,our team represented 1826 Zambian citizens in proceedings against a Zambian company for personal injury, damage to property and loss of income, amenity and enjoyment of land as a result of pollution and environmental damage caused by discharges of harmful effluent from the Nchanga mine since 2005.

Domestically, we represent individuals and groups seeking to challenge environmental decisions taken by public bodies by way of judicial review. Members of our team have been involved in the high-profile challenges to:

  • The Third Heathrow Runway (R (on the application of Friends of the Earth) v Heathrow Airport Ltd [2020] UKSC 52, [2021] 2 All E.R. 967);
  • The high-speed railway project, HS2 (R (Packham) v Secretary of State for Transport [2020] EWCA Civ 1004, [2021] Env. L.R. 10); and
  • The decision to provide UK export credit in respect of an offshore gas project in Mozambique [link].

We also appear in challenges and administrative appeals to regulatory and planning decisions by the Secretary of State and local authorities on behalf of local residents and others and in challenges to licensing decisions by the Environment Agency. In Stephenson v Secretary of State for Housing and Communities and Local Government [2019] EWHC 519 (Admin), [2019] P.T.S.R. 2209, we acted for a claimant who successfully challenged the Secretary of State’s unlawful planning guidance, which required local authorities to proceed on the basis that fracking is beneficial in terms of supporting the transition to a low carbon economy.

Our team has significant experience in protest law, and in successfully defending environmental protestors, including Extinction Rebellion (XR). In R (Jones) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis  [2019] EWHC 2957 (Admin), [2020] 1 WLR 519, we were involved in the successful challenge to the Metropolitan Police’s order, pursuant to section 14 of the Public Order Act, to prevent Extinction Rebellion protests in London. Matrix members were also instructed in the lead case of INEOS v Persons Unknown [2019] EWCA Civ 515, [2019] 4 WLR 100, in which the Court of Appeal struck down a wide-ranging injunction restraining anti-fracking protest activity by “persons unknown” directed towards a fracking company and its supply chain.