The trio, which include an Edinburgh medical student, an SNP activist from Aberdeen, and a former oil refinery worker from Kent, applied for a judicial review of the Oil and Gas Authority’s strategy to “maximise the economic recovery” of the country’s reserves of hydrocarbons.
Represented by prominent legal firm Leigh Day, the activists argue this strategy is unlawful because it seeks to redefine the meaning of maximising economic recovery to exclude consideration of the tax breaks given to the industry. They also say the strategy is “irrational” in light of the UK’s legally binding 2050 net zero emissions target.
The Paid to Pollute campaign received a huge boost after Greta Thunberg retweeted a promotional video posted by Mikaela Loach, one-third of the campaigning trio and a fourth-year medical student at Edinburgh University.
The 23-year-old activist uploaded the video to her personal Twitter and Instagram on May 12 and was shared by Greta Thunberg the same day.
The video has since attracted over one million views and shares and has brought extensive public attention to the court case.
“I’ve been blown away by the support,” said Ms Loach. “Lots of people have said they were not aware of the issue until now.”
Commentators have said the campaign has “woken them up to the truth” about how climate change connects with social injustices.
According to Ms Loach it is this connection that has led to the success of the campaign.
She said: “When we discuss climate change it gets reduced to polar bears and ice caps but this court case shows its connection to injustice. Climate change is an ecological crisis but it's also a very real justice crisis.”
The upcoming court case has been described as a “real moment in history” by the activist which has the power to help reshape the international response to climate change.
“I was born in Jamaica and grew up in the UK,” said Ms Loach. “My family back in Jamaica are so much more vulnerable to the climate crisis but Jamaican policy doesn't have as much agency as the UK. This is why I decided to take this issue to court because I recognise how much power the UK has over global climate policy.”
While no country is immune from the threat of climate change Ms Loach pointed out that the UK contributes significantly to the issue but suffers remarkably less than other countries.
She said: “If the impact of climate change was felt in the UK I do not believe it would have been allowed to get this bad.”
The pending court case is the latest action by climate activists aiming to bring an end to new oil and gas production in the North Sea.
In March, UK environmentalists were left bitterly disappointed when the government refused to rule out the possibility of new offshore fossil fuel exploration in the North Sea, setting it apart from other countries such as Denmark.
The campaign has also attracted support from Oil Change International, Greenpeace UK, Friends of the Earth Scotland, 350.org, UK Student Climate Network, Fridays For Future Scotland, Parents For Future and Mothers Rise Up.