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New oil and gas plans at odds with climate goals says report

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A new report from researchers at Global Energy Monitor shows that the Government’s plans for additional oil and gas drilling in the North Sea are completely at odds with agreed climate goals and could lead to the equivalent of 984 megatonnes of CO2 being produced, exceeding the legally binding carbon budget by roughly a factor of two.

The ‘Hooked on hydrocarbons’ report analyzed 21 of the largest fields in the North Sea, undeveloped but licenced and awaiting final approval, stating that the development of any of these fields would be in stark contrast to environmental goals and produce, “more than most countries in the world produce annually”.

Scott Zimmerman, research analyst at GEM and lead author of the report said:

“The energy crisis in Europe is a chance for the UK to kick its fossil fuel dependency but by leasing these new fields the UK is showing it’s still hooked on hydrocarbons.

“If the UK claims to be a climate leader, it cannot allow these new fields to start up, nor hold another licensing round.”

In 2021 the International Energy Agency stated that there could be no new drilling of any oil and gas fields if we are to achieve the target agreed in 2015 at the Climate Change conference in Paris (COP21) of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Earlier this year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) went further to say that “the world must decrease global oil and gas production and consumption by 30% by 2030” if it is to achieve the climate goals.

Despite this, Prime Minister Liz Truss recently announced plans to increase development in the North Sea to “reinforce our energy security” and “deal with the soaring energy prices”. Mrs Truss also stated that she remains committed to reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050 and that there will be “more renewables and nuclear energy”, while at the same time lifting a moratorium on fracking of shale gas. 

Addressing the subject of energy prices, the GEM said that the notion that additional exploitation of the North Sea would reduce consumer’s energy costs “does not reflect reality”, with the former Minister for energy & climate change Greg Hands stating that “more UK production wouldn’t reduce the global price of gas”. According to the GEM report, even if prices were affected by additional oil and gas production, exploration via new licencing rounds would probably not lead to new production for many years to come, negating the impact on energy costs being faced by consumers and businesses alike in the here and now.

The findings in the GEM’s report have been unveiled at the same time as a warning from the National Grid that the UK could face rolling three-hour blackouts this winter if Russia decided to shut of gas supplies and usage increases due to cold weather. Both follow polling in every constituency in the UK, which clearly indicated the public’s view, that an increased investment in renewables would be the best way to tackle the energy crisis.

The GEM’s ‘Hooked on Hydrocarbons’ report is available to view in full here.

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