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Mishcon Purpose advises on landmark complaint that Drax is ‘greenwashing’ woody biomass emissions

Posted on 27 October 2021

Mishcon de Reya are the legal advisors to The Lifescape Project and The Partnership for Policy Integrity, environmental groups that have filed a landmark complaint with the OECD against the UK’s largest carbon emitter, Drax Group plc. 

The complaint argues the energy giant is misleading consumers and violates rules on responsible business conduct. It is supported by NGOs Conservation North (Canada), Biofuelwatch (UK), and Save Estonia’s Forests (Estonia). 

Each year Drax’s power plant in North Yorkshire burns millions of tonnes of wood pellets predominantly imported from the United States, Canada, and EU countries including Estonia. Drax’s business model relies heavily on billions in publicly funded renewable energy subsidies for generating energy from biomass.     

The complaint argues that, while Drax portrays itself as generating carbon neutral electricity, its activities are damaging to the climate and forests.  

The complaint comes within weeks of analysis by climate think tank Ember revealing that Drax is the biggest single source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK and among the largest sources of carbon dioxide and PM10 air pollution out of all EU power stations.  

Elsie Blackshaw-Crosby, Managing Lawyer at The Lifescape Project, said: 

“Drax is misleading the public and investors, pocketing billions in publicly funded renewable energy subsidies while claiming to positively impact the environment. It purports to be a solution to the climate crisis – not only is this simply not the case, it is in fact the largest single source of carbon emissions in the UK.   

Tackling the climate crisis requires urgent action. Misleading consumers only slows down genuine progress, denying genuine sources of renewable energy much needed support. 

We hope that Drax will engage in mediation of this complaint, withdraw the misleading statements it continues to make and issue a full explanation of the real impact of its business on carbon emissions and forest ecosystems.” 

Mary Booth, Director and lead scientist at the Partnership for Policy Integrity, said: 

“Drax relies on a variety of misleading and contradictory claims to gaslight the public and policymakers into believing that logging and burning forests is a climate change solution. But any UK schoolchild can tell you that burning trees won’t save the climate. We urge the OECD to take action and ensure Drax reveals the actual climate and forest impacts of their business.” 

Alexander Rhodes, Partner and Head of Mishcon Purpose at Mishcon, said: 

“This is a critical complaint at a critical moment. Drax is the UK’s largest single source of CO2 emissions. This complaint to the OECD seeks an examination of Drax’s representations that it is effectively carbon neutral, and part of the solution to the energy carbon crisis. If upheld, this complaint will promote transparency about the carbon cost of emissions from forest biomass fuel, and strengthen the basis of mutual confidence between energy providers and the communities in which they operate.” 

Related Coverage 
Global Legal Post 
Financial Times (Subscription required)

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