The outgoing chair of the UK’s official climate advisory committee has expressed concerns that the country’s reputation as a leader in climate action would be undermined if it proceeds with a large-scale oil and gas field.
Speaking to Politico, John Gummer, who chairs the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), criticised the British government’s support for expanding fossil fuel production in the North Sea, stating that it has rightly been called hypocritical. The CCC provides independent advice on emissions targets and acts as a check on the country’s progress.
A government decision on whether to approve drilling in the North Sea’s largest undeveloped oil and gas field, Rosebank, is expected soon. This decision will likely be highly controversial, especially considering that the future of oil and gas production in the North Sea has become a significant point of contention between the government and the opposition Labour Party.
Labour Leader Keir Starmer has said that his party will block new oil and gas developments in the North Sea if it forms the next government, although he has stressed that no existing licenses will be revoked.
The Rosebank project has undergone several regulatory stages, and its developers estimate that it could produce 300 million barrels of oil during its lifetime. But Gummer said that his committee had concluded that new exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels in the UK was “not only unnecessary but sets a bad example to the world.”
Gummer recommended that Energy Secretary Grant Shapps consider the country’s reputation as a climate leader when reviewing the report on Rosebank. He argued that the UK cannot expect other nations to limit their production while it pursues new oil exploration.
Gummer, who will step down as chair of the CCC at the end of the month, commended the UK’s progress in setting emission reduction targets but criticised the government’s failure to deliver on those targets, particularly in relation to home insulation.
He also voiced concerns about the lack of clarity in Labour’s plans for achieving its own climate targets, although he acknowledged their pledge to block new oil and gas developments as a positive step. Gummer cautioned against any deviation from the goal of achieving net zero emissions and highlighted the risk of the US and EU surpassing the U.K. in green technology investments.
The recently formed Department for Energy Security and Net Zero stated that no decision had been made regarding Rosebank and defended the UK’s position on achieving net zero, highlighting the country’s commitment to cutting emissions and the significant contribution of low-carbon sources like renewables and nuclear power.
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