Environmental campaigners have reacted with outrage to the announcement that the UK Government has granted 113 licences for 65 companies to search for more oil and gas in the North Sea. Fossil fuels are the key driver of climate change and the UK is set to exceed its fair share of oil and gas under the Paris Agreement.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Just Transition Campaigner Ryan Morrison said:

“The continued licensing of vast swathes of the North Sea for oil and gas drilling has completely exposed the outrageous hypocrisy inherent in the UK’s Government’s approach to the climate emergency. While patting themselves on the back for their ‘net zero’ targets, Ministers are handing out yet more licenses for fossil fuel extraction that will take us speeding towards climate catastrophe.

“The science on this is clear. To avoid further climate devastation like we are witnessing with the Californian wildfires, floods in Bangladesh and the recent tragic landslips here in Scotland, there can be no new oil and gas fields and existing sites must be wound down over the next decade.

“The corporations controlling the oil and gas industry have repeatedly shown they are unable to act in the interests of people and planet, having both failed to diversify away from fossil fuels and at the first sign of trouble making thousands of workers redundant with no support. Instead of continuing to prop up corporate interests and hurtling the world closer to climate breakdown, the Government should be redirecting the vast public subsidies for fossil fuel towards building a socially just zero carbon economy.

“It’s time to prioritise a Just Transition for workers in oil and gas by creating hundreds of thousands of decent green jobs where they’re needed, and giving communities the long-term certainty that cannot be provided by a fossil fuel economy.”

The UK Government has also announced today a review into the future of the offshore oil and gas licensing regime as part of its net zero objectives.

Morrison continued:

“We welcome the UK Government’s announcement of a review of the offshore licensing regime. This must lead to the alignment of oil and gas policy with the Paris Agreement, ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, otherwise the constant ‘climate leadership’ rhetoric of the UK Government will be exposed for the hypocrisy that it is. The only honest zero carbon strategy is a rapid, well-planned conversion of the offshore industry away from fossil fuels and towards renewables.”

A 2019 report found that UK & Scottish Government support for oil and gas drilling was incompatible with responding to climate emergency
Key findings of that report included:

• The UK’s 5.7 billion barrels of oil and gas in already operating oil and gas fields will exceed the UK’s share in relation to the Paris climate goals – whereas industry and government aimed to extract 20 billion barrels.

• The additional oil and gas extraction enabled by recent subsidies will add twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as the phase-out of coal power saves.

• Given the right policies, clean industries could create more than three jobs for every North Sea oil job at risk, which can enable an “equivalent job guarantee” for every oil worker.

Notes to editors

1. The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has offered for award 113 licence areas over 259 blocks or part-blocks to 65 companies in the 32nd Offshore Licensing Round.

2. The UK Government today also announced a review into the future offshore oil and gas licensing regime https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-review-into-future-offshore-oil-and-gas-licensing-regime

3. The UK’s oil and gas drilling plans, and UK & Scottish Government support for them, are incompatible with responding to the climate emergency, according to ‘Sea Change’ report by Platform, Oil Change International, and Friends of the Earth Scotland. (May 2019) https://foe.scot/press-release/scottish-support-uk-oil-gas-drilling-incompatible-climate-emergency/

4. Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.