Statement on UK Government’s announcement to award new North Sea oil and gas licences

Alice Harrison, Fossil Fuels Campaign Leader at Global Witness, said:

“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.

Carbon capture and storage won’t mitigate any of this - it’s nothing more than a greenwashing gimmick by the oil and gas industry. It doesn’t remove carbon from the atmosphere, it only captures it during industrial processes. So it’s not a climate-fixing solution – it's a get-out-of-jail free card for industry that is only ever intended to make fossil fuel-powered industries slightly less polluting, and it has a high failure rate. 

“This is a government that is prioritising the interests of energy companies over its citizens and our climate. Any attempt to brand these measures as tackling energy security or benefitting people struggling with bills is a lie. The government's refusal to phase out fossil fuels is a tragic display of short-sightedness, with catastrophic consequences.”