Oil and gas industry’s net-zero blueprint branded ‘overt lobbying’

Green groups have criticised the UK's offshore oil and gas industry's blueprint to contribute to net-zero emissions by 2035, claiming that the accompanying evidence fails to "leave fossil fuels in the ground".

Oil and gas industry’s net-zero blueprint branded ‘overt lobbying’

In the Blueprint

The UK’s offshore oil and gas industry (OGUK) has today (4 September) published its Roadmap to 2035: A Blueprint for net-zero, listing the five key areas that industry, government and regulators must collaborate on to enable the sector to contribute to the UK and Scotland’s net-zero targets.

The Blueprint details to steps to ensure the sector can decarbonise while continuing to provide a “secure energy supply” and remain a vital contributor to the UK economy.

OGUK’s chief executive Deirdre Michie said: “Roadmap 2035 shows an industry in action with a credible plan for the future. While we don’t have all the answers to the big challenges we face, we have started work on what we know can be done.

“The facts outlined in our report evidence that our industry remains a vital economic asset and is uniquely positioned to help the UK meet its net-zero ambitions and energy needs in the years to come. We now need a comprehensive UK energy strategy which recognises the continued role of oil and gas in a diverse energy mix and positions us to support net-zero.”

Following engagement with more than 2,500 industry stakeholders, the published Blueprint notes that the industry can be a key driver in the development, scalability and commercialisation of Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS) and hydrogen.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has warned that a failure to deploy CCUS in the UK could double the costs of meeting the 80% emissions reduction envisioned through the Climate Change Act, rising from approximately 1% of GDP annually to 2% in 2050.

OGUK’s accompanying Economic Report 2019 also shows that the sector accounts for 75% of the UK’s energy needs, with 59% of oil and gas met by domestic production. It also highlights the Climate Change Committee forecasts that the UK will consume around 65 million tonnes of oil equivalent per year (roughly 45% of current demand) in 2050. According to OGUK, this makes CCUS and hydrogen development “essential”.

‘Overt lobbying’

Production of oil and gas currently accounts for 3% of UK total greenhouse gas emissions, and green groups have responded to the strategy by claiming that fossil fuels must be left behind on the transition to net-zero.

Scottish Green energy spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “The sector says it recognises the need to change, but this overt lobbying argues that maximum extraction of fossil fuels is compatible with tackling the climate emergency. The industry is putting its own interests ahead of our survival.

“The science cannot be any clearer on this. Fossil fuels must be left in the ground. We already have far more fossil fuel in existing reserves than we can afford to burn. Even non-fuel uses of hydrocarbons generally end up in products which will end their lives in an incinerator.”

Ruskell noted the need for a Scottish Green New Deal and also highlighted that oil and gas production in the North Sea has increased 20% since 2014, a stark contrast to national declarations of a climate emergency.

In the Blueprint, the industry has committed to keeping production above one million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Also responding to the Blueprint, WWF Scotland’s director Lang Banks said: “If the North Sea oil and gas industry is to have any kind of future, it needs to get serious about helping to address the global climate crisis. The science is clear, to avoid the worst effects of climate change, the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves have to stay in the ground.

“Sadly, the actions set out in the oil and gas industry’s 2035 road map fall well short of what is actually needed to address today’s climate emergency and accelerate a transition to a zero-carbon future that is fair for workers and communities.

“The industry must urgently commit to measures to slash emissions produced from burning its fossil fuels, not just its own carbon emissions from flaring. A truly visionary roadmap would include commitments to pay in full for the carbon capture facilities needed to deal with its pollution, to support calls for increased carbon taxes on fossil fuels instead of resisting such measures, and the identification of areas off our coast to put off-limits to all oil and gas exploration and drilling.”

The UK has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, with Scotland aiming for 2045.

Matt Mace

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