Britain on Wednesday gave the green light to a major oil and gas project in the North Seaignoring warnings from scientists and the United Nations that countries must stop developing new fossil fuel resources if the world is to avoid the catastrophes of climate change.
The North Sea Transition Authority approved the development of the field Rosebankallowing owners Equinor and Ithaca Energy to move forward with the project about 130 kilometers northwest of the Shetland Islands. The authority is a UK regulator tasked with maximizing the economic benefits of Britain’s North Sea energy resources and helping the country meet its goals of reduction of carbon emissions.
The decision comes as the government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces criticism for dilute their environmental commitments ahead of elections expected to take place next year. Sunak recently delayed a ban on petrol and diesel-powered vehicles and proposed relaxing water quality standards for developers after costly environmental programs proved unpopular with some voters.
The government maintains that Britain needs projects like Rosebank to boost domestic oil and gas production, control costs for consumers and provide “energy security” as the country transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Caroline Lucasthe only member of the Green Party in the House of Commons, called the decision “morally obscene” at a time when the climate emergency is becoming “increasingly serious”.
While Britain needs to continue extracting oil and gas from existing projects, it should not open new fields, he said.
Lucas also said Rosebank would not increase energy security or reduce bills because most of the oil will be sent abroad and anything that returns to Britain will be sold at market prices.
“Energy security and cheaper bills are not achieved by allowing foreign-owned fossil fuel giants, highly subsidized, Extract more oil and gas from these islands and sell them abroad to the highest bidder,” he stated.
Sunak announced plans in July to issue hundreds of new oil and gas licenses to protect jobs and make Britain more energy independent as production declines in aging North Sea oil fields.
Production from Britain’s North Sea fields, which were first developed in the early 1970s, has declined steadily over the past quarter of a century. The fields produced the equivalent of around 1.3 million barrels per day in May75% less than the maximum reached in December 1996.
Rosebank, one of the largest untapped deposits in UK waters, contains approximately 300 million recoverable barrels of oil, Equinor said.
Norway-based Equinor, which owns 80% of Rosebank, said the two partners plan to invest 3.8 billion dollars in the project, which will support around 1,600 jobs at the peak of construction. The first phase of the project will begin production in 2026-2027.
The government maintains that Rosebank and other new projects will generate “far fewer emissions than previous developments”.
“Continuing production in the North Sea is important to maintain domestic security of supply and make the UK less vulnerable to a repeat of the energy crisis that saw prices soar after the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia”, the government said.
Sunak last week delayed the government’s plan to ban car sales new gasoline and diesel engines until 2035, five years later than previously planned.
This came after Sunak’s Conservative Party capitalized on voter anger over a new emissions charge for drivers in London to win the by-election and fill a vacant seat in the House of Commons. Reexamining environmental programs has since become a major issue for the party, which trails in most opinion polls after 13 years in power.
The government says it is still aiming to achieve its goal of eliminating net carbon emissions by 2050.
“We are investing in our world-leading renewable energy, but… we will need oil and gas as part of that mix on the path to net zeroso it makes sense to use our own supplies from North Sea fields like Rosebank,” secretary Claire Coutinho said in a statement.
Susannah Streeter, director of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the recent decisions raise questions about the government’s commitment to its environmental goals, which may lead companies to delay necessary investments in renewable energy.
“This comes back to muddying the playing field when it comes to government support for the green transition” and “creates more uncertainty for companies and investors focused on cleaner energy solutions,” he said.
Energy companies approved 166 billion dollars of investment in new oil and gas projects from January 2021 to March 2022, according to research by Carbon Tracker, a think tank focused on tracking decisions that contribute to climate change.
This comes as the UN panel on climate change says Countries must end new fossil fuel exploration and production to preserve hopes of keeping global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
“Fossil fuel industry transition plans must be transformation plans that chart a company’s move toward clean energy, and away from a product incompatible with human survival,” the UN secretary general said in June. , Antonio Guterres. “Otherwise, they are just proposals to become planet destroyers.”
(With information from AP)