As part of its energy policy, Rishi Sunak’s administration will continue to rely on fossil fuels by issuing hundreds of additional oil and gas licences for the North Sea.
The U.K. prime minister Rishi Sunak claimed on Monday that obtaining the new licences will “bolster” energy security, generate employment, and offer room for carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) projects. However, his plans attracted swift criticism from environmental organisations.
Over 100 licences are anticipated to be approved by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), with the first one being issued in the fall.
In a statement outlining the plans, Rishi Sunak added that even after we achieve net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy requirements will still be met by oil and gas. However, some people would rather it originate from adversarial nations than from domestic resources.
Additionally, the government promised to support two new CCUS initiatives.
On Monday, the prime minister will travel to Aberdeenshire to finalise plans for the additional sites, including the Acorn site in North East Scotland and the Viking site in the Humber.
The government’s decision to authorise licences for new oil and gas fields may widen policy differences with the opposition Labour Party, which has opposed giving permits for new oil and gas fields. However, Labour has emphasised that already-issued licences won’t be cancelled.
Speaking to Sky News on Monday, Minister of Nuclear and Networks Andrew Bowie said he “makes no apologies” for the Conservative Party’s dedication to the “future of the North Sea.”
He cited suggestions made by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the government’s independent climate consultants, which he claimed “recognises” that oil and gas will continue to make up a “large part of our energy baseload” in coming decades.
The U.K. will “continue to need some oil and gas,” according to The CCC’s study from June, but it added: “This does not in itself justify the development of new North Sea fields.”
The government softened its stance on a number of climate commitments after narrowly winning the Uxbridge by-election by running an anti-clean air plan campaign, which led to the announcement of the revised commitments.
The government’s strategy has already drawn criticism from analysts and environmental campaigners.
“It goes against the advice of the International Energy Agency, the United Nations, and the Climate Change Committee to prioritise oil and gas over less expensive renewables and to push back regulations on insulation in rental homes, both of which would reduce costs,” said Jess Ralston, head of Energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.