Sunak to ‘max out’ North Sea opportunities

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak yesterday defended the decision to grant new North Sea oil and gas licences.

Campaigners have claimed that extracting more fossil fuels from the basin would “send a wrecking ball through the UK’s climate commitments”.

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But Mr Sunak said granting the new licences was “entirely consistent” with net-zero commitments.

The PM added: “My view is we should max-out the opportunities we have here in the North Sea.

“That’s good for our energy security, good for jobs, particularly in Scotland, and it’s good for the climate because the alternative is shipping energy from half-way around the world with three or four times the carbon emissions.”

Mr Sunak has also confirmed support for the Acorn project at St Fergus, which he visited yesterday.

It is one of four carbon-capture projects which will share up to £20billion of funding.

Acorn is expected to create 21,000 jobs in its first phase.

The PM also said granting the new oil and gas licences was “the right thing to do”.

He added: “Even when we reach net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will still come from oil and gas – and domestic gas production has about a quarter or a third of the carbon footprint of imported gas.”

The PM said increasing home-grown sources of energy would improve the UK’s resilience, create jobs and generate tax revenue to fund public services.

Mr Sunak said the government was determined to transition to net zero in a “proportionate and pragmatic” way.

And he also defended his flight to Scotland as “an efficient use of time for the person running the country” and highlighted investment in new technologies, such as sustainable aviation fuel.

The PM said: “If your approach to climate change is to say that no one should go on holiday, no one should go on a plane, I think you are completely and utterly wrong.”

Labour’s Ed Miliband claimed the Conservatives’ energy policy had left Britain as “the worst-hit country in Western Europe during the energy crisis”.

Mr Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary, said: “Rishi Sunak’s weak and confused policy will not take a penny off bills – as his own party chair has admitted – will do nothing for our energy security, and drive a coach and horses through our climate commitments, while continuing to leave us at the mercy of fossil-fuel dictators like Putin.”

And Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf claimed the new oil and gas licences demonstrated the UK Government was “not serious about tackling the climate emergency”.

Decision criticised

Campaigners criticised the decision to award new fossil-fuel licences.

Oxfam climate-change policy advisor Lyndsay Walsh told the BBC that the announcement was another example of the government’s “hypocritical and dangerously-inconsistent climate policy”.

She added: “Extracting more fossil fuels from the North Sea will send a wrecking ball through the UK’s climate commitments at a time when we should be investing in a just transition to a low-carbon economy and our own abundant renewables.”

The North Sea Transition Authority is currently running the 33rd offshore oil and gas licensing round.

It anticipates that the first of the new licences will be awarded in the autumn, with the round expected to hand out more than 100 licences in total.

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