Rishi Sunak says approving new licences for oil and gas drilling ‘entirely consistent’ with net zero plan
Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to Aberdeenshire, the prime minister said approving new licences for drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea is “entirely consistent with our plan to get to net zero”.
Rishi Sunak said domestic oil and gas saves “two, three, four times the amount of carbon emissions” than “shipping it from halfway around the world”.
Questioned on whether the Rosebank oil and gas field in the North Sea would be approved, he said:
Licensing decisions are obviously made the normal way but what I’d say is that – entirely consistent with transitioning to net zero – that we use the energy that we’ve got here at home because we’re going to need it for decades.
The prime minister maintains that plans to grant “hundreds” of new licences off the coast of Scotland are “entirely consistent” with the government’s net-zero emissions objectives. However, one of his representatives warns that he will be on “the wrong side of history”
Rishi Sunak has defended a proposed expansion of oil and gas extraction in the North Sea, stating that it is “entirely consistent” with the government’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
This morning, Number 10 announced plans to issue hundreds of new oil and gas licences off the coast of Scotland to “boost British energy independence” and “reduce reliance on hostile states.”
Critics, on the other hand, asserted that the decision “demolished” the United Kingdom’s climate commitments, with one Tory MP stating that the prime minister would be “on the wrong side of history” if the decision was implemented.
This action differentiates the government from Labour, which has proposed a moratorium on all new domestic oil and gas drilling as part of its plan to achieve carbon-free electricity by 2030.
Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary for climate change, accused Mr. Sunak of engaging in a “culture war on climate” to make up for “13 years of failed Tory energy policy.”
In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ministers have emphasised the importance of utilising North Sea fossil fuel resources.
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), which regulates the oil, gas, and carbon storage industries, is currently conducting the 33rd offshore oil and gas licencing round and expects to award more than a hundred new licences in the autumn.
However, these actions have alarmed climate activists, and the government is already facing opposition to the development of Rosebank, which is located 120 kilometres northwest of Shetland.
During a trip to Aberdeenshire, Mr. Sunak stated that utilising domestic oil and gas saved “two, three, four times the amount of carbon emissions” compared to “importing it from halfway around the world” and that issuing new drilling licences was “entirely consistent with our plan to reach net zero.”
When asked specifically if Rosebank would be approved, he responded, “Licencing decisions are obviously made in the usual manner, but what I’d say – completely consistent with transitioning to net zero – is that we use the energy that we have at home because we’ll need it for decades.”
Ahead of today’s visit to Aberdeenshire, the prime minister disclosed the locations of two new carbon capture, utilisation, and storage complexes, in which billions of dollars are anticipated to be invested.
Carbon capture entails the collection of pollutant fumes for use elsewhere or underground storage, as opposed to releasing them into the atmosphere; it is regarded as an increasingly crucial tool for achieving net zero.
The Acorn carbon capture project in North East Scotland, a joint venture between Shell and other companies, and the Viking project in the Humber will be “crucial to advancing and investing in the clean technologies we need to reach our net-zero target,” as stated by Downing Street.
The move could support up to 50,000 jobs, according to ministers, but the two new sites are not anticipated to be operational until 2030.
We’ve decided to electrify the United Kingdom.
Mr. Sunak stated in advance of his trip to Scotland, “We have all seen how Putin has manipulated and weaponized energy, disrupting supply and halting global economic development.
“It is more essential than ever that we strengthen our energy security and capitalise on our independence in order to offer British households and businesses more affordable, clean energy.
Even if we achieve net zero in 2050, oil and gas will supply 25% of our energy requirements.
“However, there are those who would prefer it come from hostile states rather than domestic sources.”
Instead of relying on carbon-intensive foreign petrol imports, we’ve decided to invest in vital industries such as carbon capture and storage, which will support thousands of skilled employment, create new opportunities for green technologies, and stimulate economic growth.
Stephen Flynn, the leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, stated that it was appropriate to be “aware of energy security” and to keep the large oil and gas workforce in Scotland employed, calling it a “silly position” to terminate all drilling.
However, in an interview with Sky News, he stated that Tory intentions to extract every last drop of oil from the North Sea were “a little bit morally bankrupt.”
He continued, “We must be cognizant of the fact that every drop of oil and every molecule of gas extracted from the North Sea will have an effect on climate change.”
Mr. Flynn urged the implementation of “robust climate compatibility checkpoints” for all new licences.
However, Tory MP Mr. Skidmore, who has long advocated for environmental causes, was incensed by the news, tweeting, “This is the wrong decision at precisely the wrong time, when the rest of the world is experiencing record heatwaves.”
The former minister, who has declared he will step down at the next election to focus on the fight for net zero, added, “It is on the wrong side of a future economy that will be based on renewable and clean industries rather than fossil fuels.
“It is on the wrong side of modern voters, who will vote with their feet in the next general election for parties that defend our environment rather than threaten it, and it is on the wrong side of history, which will not favour the decision made today.
Worryingly, this decision was also announced during the break, when lawmakers are unable to hold the government accountable. When we return, I will write to the Speaker to request an emergency debate.”
Jamie Livingstone, the president of Oxfam Scotland, echoed Mr. Skidmore’s sentiments, describing the new licencing rounds as a “short-sighted and selfish decision by the UK government” that “flies in the face of climate science and common sense.”
He added, “The United Nations has made it abundantly clear that we must end our global addiction to fossil fuels, so this decision destroys the United Kingdom’s climate commitments.”
Mr. Miliband of the Labour Party questioned whether the prime minister was the appropriate person to make future energy security decisions.
“Every family and business is paying the price, in higher energy bills,” he said. “It is preposterous that after leaving this country so vulnerable, the Conservative Party asks the public to believe it can be fixed.
“It is telling that while Labour focuses on lower bills and decent jobs, Rishi Sunak desperately pursues a culture war on climate to appease his fractured party, losing track of what he believes from day to day based on which faction he meets with.
This is not the proper method to govern, and it costs working people.
A new green political dividing line?
Both major parties continue to dispute their commitment to critical net zero policies and environmental pledges.
Sir Keir Starmer blamed the loss on the Conservatives’ narrow victory in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, which opened a can of worms within Labour over London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s proposal to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to outer boroughs.
Sir Keir is urging his colleague to “reflect” on the affect on voters as the Labour leader and Mr Khan continue their discussions regarding the extension.
Mr. Khan has defended the decision on the grounds that it will enhance the air quality for five million Londoners.
MPs on the right of the Conservative Party are urging the prime minister to reconsider the government’s net zero commitments in light of the victory, calling for delays to a number of objectives, such as delaying the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel automobiles from 2030 to 2035.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who was one of 43 signatories to a letter urging Mr. Sunak to reconsider the plan, told Sky News that the date was “plucked out of thin air,” adding, “If you want to get them to clean emissions, you have to do it in a way that keeps our industry going in the UK.”
The prime minister insisted on Sunday that the deadline of 2030 would remain in place, but he did declare plans for a review of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), stating that he was on the side of drivers.
Downing Street confirmed ministers are reviewing existing commitments “in light of some of the cost of living challenges” as the prime minister pledged a “proportionate and pragmatic” approach to net zero.