The British Government has been accused of sending mixed messages on climate change after refusing to halt new exploration licences for North Sea oil and gas.
Campaigners had urged the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy to follow the lead of Denmark and rule out new licences as part of a review launched last September. Instead, the Government says it is introducing what it calls a Climate Compatibility Checkpoint before each future oil and gas licensing round to “ensure licences awarded are aligned with wider climate objectives”. It says it will consider domestic demand for oil and gas and how the sector is reducing its emissions.
Critics of the initiative say it is at odds with the Government’s pledge to show leadership on the climate crisis. Independent body, the Climate Change Committee, who advise the UK Government on strategy towards its net zero goal, says oil and gas will continue to form part of the UK’s energy mix on the road to achieving this goal by 2050. The offshore oil and gas industry say they are pleased that has been recognised by the government, saying their industry is compatible with a net-zero strategy.
However, green campaigners disagree, with Mel Evans (pictured), head of Greenpeace UK’s oil campaign, saying, “refusal to rule out new oil and gas licences when the evidence is already clear that they are incompatible with UK climate commitments is a colossal failure in climate leadership in the year of COP26”.
OGUK, the body which represents the UK oil and gas industry, estimates there are currently the equivalent of upwards of 10 billion barrels of oil in the North Sea. That includes five billion in sanctioned projects; two billion with extraction licences but no development plans; and possibly four billion barrels which has not yet been discovered or licenced.
Currently around 1.6 million barrels of oil and gas are extracted from the North Sea each day: Last year around 590 million barrels were extracted in total.
‘A colossal failure’: Green groups criticise failure to halt North Sea oil exploration, Sky News, 2021-03-24