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New North Sea oil and gas licences: ‘wrong headed and dangerous’

There has been a flood of responses to the prime Minister’s announcement that he plans to grants hundreds of new oil and gas licences, along with two new carbon capture storage units. 

Now seemingly convinced that it’s the nation’s drivers who will re-elect the Conservative party, Rishi Sunak has also announced that he will be reconsidering the future of low traffic neighbourhoods and 20mph speed limits.

Lord Zak Goldsmith, who resigned as minister for the international environment, claiming the Rishi Sunak was ‘uninterested’ in environmental issuers, tweeted: ‘After 13 yrs in power a Party needs a compelling story to win another term. Does the Prime Minister really think dropping our int’l environmental leadership & rolling back our domestic commitments is that winning story? If so he must have a dim view of the people he wants to lead’

Offshore Drilling Rig on Body of Water

Dr Ashok Sinha, CEO at climate solutions charity Ashden, said:

‘Today’s announcement by the government to expand fossil fuel production is entirely wrong-headed and dangerous. As we see what the UN General Secretary has described as human-induced “global boiling” occurring across the world, in the form of killer heat, flash floods and wildfires, the government is fuelling the fire by investing in more carbon emissions, not less.

‘Plus, at a time when the US and EU are ramping up their investment in the green economy, creating new jobs and attracting inward investment, UK policy is going backwards, threatening the UK’s future economic competitiveness, and creating jobs that will only have to be made redundant later on.

‘Scare tactics about Putin’s Russia won’t wash. The best pathway to energy independence is to slash demand in the first place, by finally embarking on an industrial scale energy efficiency programme, and by accelerating the exploitation of the UK’s abundant sources of renewable energy. This will not only free us from fossil fuel dependence but also keep our homes warm in winter and cool in summer, and slash fuel bills for everyone.’


Tessa Khan, is an international climate change and human rights lawyer and executive director of Uplift, the campaigning and research organisation.

‘With new licences and carbon capture and storage, the government is giving the oil and gas industry what it wants but these policies don’t help the British public one bit.

‘The only way to deliver an affordable supply of energy, and lower bills, is to move the UK away from expensive oil and gas, by helping people insulate homes and unblocking onshore renewable energy, which is so much cheaper than gas.

‘This is smoke and mirrors from the government. New oil and gas licences won’t make any difference either to UK energy security or our bills. Hundreds of licences have been issued in the past decade, but it has only led to a handful of oil and gas fields. The truth is that we have burned most of the UK’s gas. Even the head of the regulator issuing these permits admits that new licences will only make a difference “around the edges”. And what little gas is produced won’t lower energy costs, a fact the government admits, as it will be sold back to us at market price.

‘Meanwhile, this winter will be even worse than the last for millions of households, particularly vulnerable people, because energy bills are still nearly double what they were and the government has stopped its bills support scheme.

‘Rishi Sunak needs to stop pandering to the global oil and gas companies that are profiting from the energy crisis and urgently needs to side with the UK public.’


Alice Harrison, Fossil Fuels Campaign Leader at Global Witness:

‘As Rishi Sunak sets off to Scotland in his private jet to herald a new era of oil and gas production, today is a historic day for fossil fuel companies like BP and Shell, but for people and the planet, this news is about as bad as it gets

‘What the vast majority of people in the UK want is energy that’s cheap and clean, like wind and solar. Fossil fuels are expensive, they’re dirty, and as the war in the Ukraine has shown us, they leave us vulnerable to the whim of despots – they belong in the ground and in the past.

‘Fossil fuels are also the single biggest cause of climate breakdown. It’s morally depraved to open new oil fields up for drilling at a time when large swaths of the planet are literally on fire because our climate is reaching boiling point. 

‘Oil and gas also isn’t the answer to our energy security. The UK currently exports about 80% of the oil produced in the North Sea, and 60% of gas. These new licenses won’t bring down our energy bills, because they’ll take years to come onstream, and the oil and gas produced will be sold to the highest bidder globally. Instead, billions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money will be spent on subsidizing these oil fields, which are extremely expensive to get up-and-running.’

Photo: Jan-Rune Smenes Reite

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