Liz Truss’s oil and gas plans ‘impossible’ within UK’s carbon budgets

Should the UK Government press ahead with licences for more than 100 potential new oil and gas fields in the North Sea, the resulting emissions will see the nation failing to adhere to its carbon budget for 2023-2037.

Liz Truss’s oil and gas plans ‘impossible’ within UK’s carbon budgets

That is the conclusion of new analysis published today (6 October) by Global Energy Monitor, a non-profit which tracks global energy infrastructure and advocates for the clean energy transition.

The ‘Hooked on Hydrocarbons’ analysis looks at the potential lifetime emissions of the 21 largest UK North Sea oil and gas fields likely to reach final investment decisions and/or receive development consent within the next three years. The figure is 920 million tonnes of CO2e,  more than twice the level of Thailand’s national annual emissions.

Global Energy Monitor’s conclusion is that the combustion of the reserves in the oil and gas fields would generate more emissions than is compatible with the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets for 2023-2037. Emissions would likely be twice as high as the levels needed to stay within this budget, the analysis states.

The report also states that, if Liz Truss forges ahead with plans to award more than 100 new North Sea fossil fuel licences this autumn, the UK could extract three times as much oil and gas being extracted than what is currently in reserves already in development. Many new projects approved this year would still be in operation in the early-to-mid 2050s, the report warns, posing challenges to decarbonisation for decades to come. Projects in this category include Cambo, Perth, Leverett and Galapagos.

In her speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week, Truss stated: “We are taking decisive action to reinforce our energy security.We are opening more gas fields in the North Sea and delivering more renewables and nuclear energy. That is how we will protect the great British environment, deliver on our commitment to net-zero and tackle climate change.”

This statement has raised eyebrows across the UK’s green economy for its wording, and for the fact it was her only mention of climate and the environment at the conference.

Speaking to edie’s sister title Utility Week at the conference, Bim Afolami, chair of the Parliamentary Renewable & Sustainable Energy Group (PRASEG), said: “Over time, we will need less and less oil. But right now, if we do not get the investment going into new oil and gas fields globally, you end up with a scenario where the energy becomes so expensive that you create not only socio-economic and political problems but you end up with different countries on an emergency basis burning coal. That is the worst conceivable thing you can do.”

Climate checkpoints

Global Energy Monitor’s publication also assesses the new ‘Climate Compatibility Checkpoint’ framework which developers need to comply with to develop new oil and gas fields. The framework was first proposed earlier this year and the final details were published in late September, following a consultation.

Global Energy Monitor’s report expresses disappointment that new projects which already hold a licence but have not yet received development consent can go ahead without being subjected to the Checkpoint. Another criticism is the scrapping of plans to test the ‘global production gap’, which would have assessed whether the sum of emissions from the global oil and gas pipeline would jeapordise the delivery of the Paris Agreement.

It also recaps on criticisms levelled by groups such as Greenpeace and Uplift, around oil and gas companies having so much of a say in the design of the Checkpoint.

The UK Government’s climate advisory body, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), stated when the original Checkpoint proposals were published that the scope of the framework is is “too narrow and does not provide appropriate grounds fully to assess climate impacts”.

Speaking exclusively to edie, the CCC’s head of net-zero David Joffe said that “there is not a huge amount of surprise” in the final decisions taken on the Checkpoint design and that he “does see it as a bit of a missed opportunity” – particularly in regards to the ‘global production gap’ test.

Comments (4)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    At the present moment, it is clear that if the population in general is not willing to live slightly chillier life, and travel rather less, and maybe eat and waste rather less, the CO2 target will be missed.
    But the best behavior can be widely advertised, after which human behavior will be up to the individual.
    I am afraid that only technology may come to our assistance, but it’s not here yet.
    Richard Phillips

    1. Andy Kadir-Buxton says:

      A coat of Starlite paint will turn every building into a passive temperature controlled one.

  2. Paul King says:

    We are harmed if we do, and harmed if we don’t. Period.
    We need to choose the course of least harm – and reduce that harm further.
    There is no point saying “No, We can’t!” – because we can, if necessary.
    There is also no point in declaring “No, we must not!” – because we may have to.
    Difficult and interesting times, hey?

  3. Richard Phillips says:

    I do just wonder, at times, if the upper echelons of our political hierarchy have the essential grounding in the physics’ chemistry and engineering, to be able to understand all the, sometimes technical, advice passed to them.
    I would certainly not appreciate the welter of political nuance that they have to survive!
    Richard Phillips

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