Labour right to block new North Sea oil and gas, say civil society groups

Labour are right to block new oil and gas developments in the North Sea, civil society groups have said in a letter to the Opposition leader.

Signed by more than 140 climate, wildlife, political and religious groups and universities, including Friends of the Earth, the RSPB, Christian Aid and the University of Sussex, the letter thanked Sir Keir Starmer for his party’s policy.

They said developing renewables and improving energy efficiency in buildings will better help to improve energy security than allowing more oil and gas, which companies are free to sell on the international market.

The International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the World Health Organisation, the UN secretary general and the Government’s net-zero champion Chris Skidmore have said that new oil and gas development must stop.

Friends of the Earth’s head of climate, Jamie Peters, praised Labour’s decision saying: “This is what real climate leadership should look like.

“Stopping new fossil fuel developments and investing in energy efficiency will release us from our reliance on expensive and volatile gas and oil, slash emissions, boost the economy, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, increase energy security and help bring down our energy bills.

“It’s time to build a clean, healthy and prosperous future by saying no to new coal, gas and oil.”

Countries around the world, including the UK, agreed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in the Paris Agreement.

Overshooting this could trigger irreversible and catastrophic warming outside human control, which could lead to glaciers melting, destruction of the rainforests and mass death of marine life, scientists have warned.

Climate and net zero minister Graham Stuart has said developing new North Sea oil and gas would be more environmentally friendly than importing it as it would save emissions on shipping and that new oil and gas projects would be approved only if they adhere to the Paris Agreement targets.

Academics and campaigners are concerned that Rosebank – capable of producing around 500 million barrels of oil – will soon be approved for development.

Offshore Energies UK, which represents North Sea oil and gas companies, called Labour’s plans “simplistic” and wants it to “listen to the industry”.

GMB union general secretary Gary Smith said Labour are going to “create a cliff edge” with North Sea oil and gas extraction and has urged Sir Keir to think again.

Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift, said: “Labour have clearly looked below the surface and seen that new North Sea drilling is a terrible deal for the UK public.

“It won’t lower energy bills because the companies that own the oil and gas either export it or sell it back to us for enormous profit, and we’re giving oil and gas companies billions in subsidies at a time they’re making record profits.

“Countless scientists have also made it clear that any new oil and gas fields will mean we blow past safe climate limits, so focusing on renewable energy rather than doubling down on oil and gas production is the obvious solution to our energy affordability crisis and the climate crisis.

“At a time when a record number of oil and gas workers are also going on strike, it’s clear this isn’t an industry that provides the sustainable, decent jobs we need either.”