Government unveils new UK oil and gas licensing bill amidst green group backlash

The UK Government has unveiled the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill to Parliament, aiming to bolster the economy and enhance energy security; however, environmental groups argue that the bill falls short of aligning with the UK’s net-zero by 2050 pathway.

Government unveils new UK oil and gas licensing bill amidst green group backlash

Earlier this week, King Charles delivered his speech to mark the State Opening of Parliament, confirming that a bill intended to expand oil and gas licensing would be one of the focus points for his Government over the next year.

On 8 November, the Government announced new legislation in Parliament, mandating annual oil and gas licensing rounds that will be contingent upon “stringent” emissions and imports assessments.

The new framework will undergo scrutiny based on two key criteria including insurance that the UK is anticipated to persist as a net importer of both oil and gas, and that the carbon emissions linked to UK gas production are lesser than the average emissions from imported liquefied natural gas.

Nevertheless, environmental campaigners have voiced anger and disappointment towards the new legislation, calling it “a pathetic attempt to turn climate policy into a culture war”.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 1.5C-aligned pathway to a global net-zero energy system by 2050 includes an immediate halt to all upstream oil and gas projects with long lead times.

Fossil fuels are the predominant source of climate change. Their value chains are responsible for more than 75% of worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions.

Nonetheless, since 2015, the UK government has provided £20bn more in support to fossil fuel producers than to renewables, according to research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats.

Despite the Government’s persistent claims that the recent legislation would fortify the country’s energy security and contribute to the net-zero transition by 2050, recent findings from the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology suggest that the Government’s rollback on its green policies has led to declining confidence in both the public and political spheres regarding the energy transition.

Doubts are also emerging regarding the potential impact of increased North Sea oil and gas capacity on enhancing British energy security and reducing costs. These concerns have been amplified, particularly following Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho’s indication in a BBC interview that such developments might not lead to the desired outcomes.

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