Press release | Dec. 5, 2019

UK amongst top 10 countries expanding oil and gas production

Global investments in oil and gas over next five years pushing warming above 1.5°C

5th December 2019, London – The UK is amongst the top 10 countries that are planning to expand oil and gas production over the next five years, which will undermine the battle to combat climate change, according to a new report today by the Global Gas and Oil Network, a coalition of environmental NGO’s.

Supported by Global Witness, and 14 other organisations, this new research finds that if the planned expansion by the UK and other countries goes ahead, global temperatures will rise well above the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target that the UK and other developed nations have signed up to.

The UK is placed 8th, ahead of Nigeria and Brazil, for planned oil and gas expansion with undeveloped and undiscovered fields adding a further 14.3 billion barrels of oil and gas – 2.5 times more than the 5.7 barrels that will currently be produced.

Stuart McWilliam, Climate Campaign Manager at Global Witness, said:

“These new statistics frankly make a mockery of claims that the UK is a leader in the fight against climate change. Successive UK Governments have not only ignored the role of oil and gas, but ensured we are actually expanding its production.”

“This is simply not compatible with the Paris climate goals to avoid irreversible climate breakdown. A year from now, whoever wins the General Election will hold the presidency of the UN’s vital Conference of the Parties climate summit. If the UK is to really lead the world in in the battle against climate change the next Government will need to abandon these expansion plans and instead announce the start of a planned phase out of fossil fuels.”

“We are facing a climate emergency – our planet and our country can’t afford more dither and delay, otherwise the battle to save the plant could be lost.”

Globally, over the coming five years, the oil and gas sector intend to invest USD 1.4 trillion developing new oil and gas extraction, which would lock in 148 gigatonnes of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to 1200 new US coal-fired power plants.

85 percent of the expanded production is slated to come from the United States and Canada over that period. The other countries where the largest expansion is planned are Argentina, China, Norway, Australia, Mexico, UK, Brazil, Nigeria.

If your house is on fire you don't add more fuel. Expanding production of oil and gas at this moment in history is like the fire department showing up with gas rather than water to save a planet on fire. No one is saying turn off the taps overnight. We still use oil and gas today, but we must act now to stop the planned expansion by the oil and gas industry that could lock us in to an unsafe climate. - Tzeporah Berman, International Campaign Director at Stand.Earth

In response, Global Witness is calling on the next UK Government to:

  • Rapidly phase out all subsidies for oil and gas extraction in the UK, including substantial tax breaks, and redirect them to a comprehensive plan to decarbonise the UK economy, which helps workers and communities through the transition.
  • Repeal and replace the legislation that requires every last drop of UK oil and gas to be extracted, so that the next and future UK governments have to ensure extraction is in line with the 1.5 warming limits.
  • Stop issuing licences to explore for new oil and gas fields.

The report highlights a number of recommendations applicable to all governments, including implementing bans on licences, contracts and permits; removing finance and subsidies; and creating and implementing transition plans that consider the needs of workers and communities impacted by fossil fuel development with high-income countries, like the UK, leading the way.



Notes to editor:

1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said global warming must be limited to 1.5°C, requiring zero emissions before 2050. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), existing national commitments track towards a catastrophic 3.2°C of warming by 2100.

2.  Sea Change, a report published in May 2019, by Friends of the Earth Scotland, Oil Change International and Platform, found that recent government subsidies given to companies extracting oil and gas in the UK will add twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as the phase-out of coal power saves.

3. The UK’s Infrastructure Act (2015) enshrined into law the duty for UK Governments to “maximise economic recovery” of oil and gas, building on earlier provisions in the Petroleum Act (1998).  In effect, this requires the Government to produce and implement a strategy, including tax policies, to ensure that as much oil and gas as possible is extracted from the UK.

4. This report will be launched at a press conference at the UN Conference of the Parties in Madrid, at 1400 (CET) – embargoed copies available on request. 

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