The UK Government’s new £16bn sector deal that pledges to align the oil and gas sector with the national net-zero target has been slammed by environmentalists.
With the UK hosting COP26 in the autumn and expected to take a lead in the race for net-zero emissions, green groups hoped that an end to oil and gas licensing, as well as the curtailing financing for overseas oil and gas projects could be on the cards.
And while the government has confirmed legislation to prevent the latter, the North Sea Transition Deal promises to support oil and gas industry workers and businesses by a mixture of green innovations. These include introducing low-carbon solutions such as hydrogen production, Carbon Capture Usage and Storage, offshore wind and decommissioning.
It is hoped the innovations will help evolve an oil and gas which currently accounts for almost 4% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Frustratingly for the campaigners, the Government has failed to rule out that oil and gas projects will be licensed in the future.
Mel Evans, head of Greenpeace UK’s oil campaign accused the Government of hypocrisy arguing “Refusal to rule out new oil and gas licences when the evidence is already clear that they are incompatible with UK climate commitments is a colossal failure in climate leadership in the year of COP26.
The Government also hasn’t set a timeframe for when this decarbonisation process will be completed saying that it will be in line with its own national net-zero aspirations. A number of interim emission reduction targets have been set – 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027 and 50% reduction by 2030.
The £16bn investment includes £3bn to replace fossil fuel-based power supplies on oil and gas platforms with renewable energy, up to £3bn on Carbon Capture Usage and Storage, and up to £10bn for hydrogen production.
The Government claims the measures will cut pollution by around 60 million tonnes by 2030, yet will also support 40,000 jobs across the supply chain.
A clear message
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng argued that the investment would protect jobs but also help the UK to lead a global green energy revolution.: “Today, we are sending a clear message around the world that the UK will be a nation of clean energy as we build back better and greener from the pandemic.
“We will not leave oil and gas workers behind in the United Kingdom’s irreversible shift away from fossil fuels. Through this landmark sector deal, we will harness the skills, capabilities and pent-up private investment potential of the oil and gas sector to power the green industrial revolution, turning its focus to the next-generation clean technologies the UK needs to support a green economy.
“At every step on the path to net-zero emissions, we will create the right conditions for new green industries to base themselves in the UK and create new high-value employment opportunities, while future-proofing existing businesses to secure the long-term viability of jobs in our industrial heartlands.”
Mel Evans, head of Greenpeace UK’s oil campaign was less impressed. “While the government has rightly recognised the need to set a global example in ending fossil fuel finance abroad, its domestic plans for oil and gas continue to fall woefully short, giving mixed messages on the world stage.
“Instead of finding ways to prop up this volatile and polluting sector, a better proposition for workers and communities would be for the government to confirm a ban on new licences, and put all its energies into a nationwide programme of retraining, reskilling and investment in renewables and green infrastructure.”
And Gabrielle Jeliazkov, Just Transition Campaigner, Platform London commented, “The Government has made another bailout to the oil and gas industry sound like the green revolution. This announcement talks big but in reality, there is no retraining or re-skilling funding for workers, no clear conditions to ensure secure, well-paid jobs and relies on controversial and unproven technologies.
Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, told BBC News: “Every new licence makes it more difficult to achieve the reductions we need and risks creating an even bigger ‘cliff edge’ for oil and gas workers.
“As climate science continues to be updated, it’s entirely possible that there’s going to have to be an even quicker tail-off in oil and gas production than is currently predicted.
“If we want the transition to be a fair one, then instead of wasting any more time opening up new fossil fuel reserves, efforts would be better used to more rapidly harness existing skills and direct them toward the zero-carbon industries we all need.”