Dr James Hansen, one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change, alongside groups representing young people, parents and activists across the UK, is calling on the government to “resolutely reject” proposals by Shell to develop a significant new oil field in the North Sea.

Responding to the government consultation into the environmental impact of the Cambo oil field proposal, 14 environmental organisations point to the failure by Shell and its partner in the project, Siccar Point Energy, to account for the significant impact on the climate from burning the oil and gas extracted from the Cambo Field in their environmental statement.

The regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority, part of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, must now decide whether to approve or reject the plans, which come just months before the UK is due to host the crucial UN climate conference in Glasgow.

The Cambo heavy crude field off the coast of the Shetland Islands contains over 800 million barrels of oil. In its first phase, the project expects to extract 150-170 million of these — the burning of which would create emissions equivalent to operating 16-18 coal-fired power stations for a year. If approved, Cambo would be producing oil and gas until 2050. It is 70% owned by private equity firm, Siccar Point Energy, and 30% by Shell. The oil giant was ordered by a Dutch court in May to reduce its total global emissions by 45% by 2030.

The International Energy Agency recently said that no new oil and gas fields should be developed, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5C.  But both the UK and Scottish Government’s official policy is to maximise recovery of oil and gas – despite being in direct contradiction to their efforts to reduce fossil fuel use.

Dr James Hansen said:
“The U.K. government simply cannot aspire to international leadership on climate if its Ministers blithely press forward on major fossil fuel projects. We are already well above the safe level of global atmospheric CO2 – witness the near-overtopping of numerous atoll-island nations and the recent heatwaves and fires in Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, California, and Australia. This implies that the major emitting nations need to get their act together, without further delay, to ensure that all fossil fuels within their reach bear their true cost to society, including their imposition on future generations and the environment. Indeed, we are demanding the same in the U.S.”

Sam Hunter Jones, ClientEarth Lawyer, said:
“The International Energy Agency, the world’s most influential energy advisor, has been explicit that new fossil fuel projects have no place on the global net-zero pathway. Approving this field completely flies in the face of that warning. The direct emissions from oil extraction at Cambo will further widen the gap between the UK’s projected emissions and the reductions required to meet its decarbonisation targets. Add to that the much larger emissions from downstream use of the oil, for which there has as yet been no assessment, and the inconsistency with keeping to the global 1.5C temperature goal becomes even more stark. The UK is already facing scrutiny over its lack of progress in reducing emissions from its oil and gas production. Allowing this project to go ahead whilst claiming to be a global leader in climate action is another worrying example of the government’s growing hypocrisy ahead of COP26.”

Ryan Morrison, Friends of the Earth Scotland Just Transition Campaigner, said:
“The UK Government should be sitting down with people and communities who work in oil and gas to develop a plan of how we can rapidly transition away from these industries in a way that is fair and brings their skills and experience to renewables and decommissioning. With the right policy and investment, three times as many green jobs can be created than currently exist in these polluting fossil fuel industries. Instead we see the Government in lockstep with big polluters to keep on drilling and delaying the necessary transition away from oil and gas.”

Notes to editors

• The groups calling for the UK government to reject the Cambo proposals are: ClientEarth, Uplift, Friends of the Earth (EWNI), Friends of the Earth Scotland, E3G, Fossil Free London, Parents for Future UK and Parents for Future Glasgow, Platform, Oil Change International, Mothers Rise Up, Climate Action Strathearn, UK Student Climate Network and Robin Hood Tax.

• Dr. Hansen, the former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, heads the Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions think tank at Columbia University’s Earth Institute: csas.earth.columbia.edu

• Summary of the Cambo Project, including Siccar Point Energy’s environmental statement, on the BEIS website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cambo-phase-1-field-development

• Cambo Field details from Siccar Point Energy: https://www.siccarpointenergy.co.uk/our-portfolio/corona-ridge-area  

• ‘No new oil & gas’ to meet climate commitments, says International Energy Agency report, May 2021: https://www.iea.org/news/pathway-to-critical-and-formidable-goal-of-net-zero-emissions-by-2050-is-narrow-but-brings-huge-benefits   

• Uplift is a not-for-profit initiative with a mission to support and energise the movement for a just and fossil fuel-free UK. It resources, connects, and elevates ideas and voices to support a just transition away from fossil fuel production. https://upliftuk.org