Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has backed continuing North Sea oil and gas production, arguing that the UK “will need fossil fuels for the next few decades.”
Speaking in the House of Commons today, Sunak cited the latest report from the Climate Change Committee, Westminster’s independent advisory group, which predicts half of the UK’s energy requirements between now and 2050 will still be met by oil and gas, and as much as 64 per cent between 2022 and 2037.
“We will need fossil fuels for the next few decades as we transition to a greener future. During that period, it makes absolutely no sense not to invest in the resources we have here at home,” Sunak said.
He added that importing foreign fossil fuels “at twice the carbon emissions as our local resources” also made no sense.
Sunak’s comments came in response to a grilling at PMQs from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who questioned whether he could “look his daughter in the eye” if he allows Rosebank, the largest undeveloped North Sea oilfield, to be approved.
The Prime Minister has previously called his daughter the “climate change champion” in his house.
“I wonder if he’s asked her what she thinks about Rosebank,” Lucas said. “If he gives this the green light, will he be able to look his daughter in the eye and honestly say that he has done everything in his power to give her and all other young people a liveable future?”
Lucas criticised the potential approval of the project, warning it would “blow climate targets and create more emissions than 28 of the world’s poorest countries combined” and would see nearly £4bn of taxpayer money handed to Norwegian oil giant Equinor.
Lucas argued it would fail to boost the UK’s energy security as the “vast majority” of the oil from Rosebank will be exported.
Labour’s shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband has also previously called for the project to be scrapped – with the opposition now positioning itself against all new oil and gas developments in the North Sea.
Rosebank still awaits a green light from the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) and the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) before being passed to energy secretary Grant Shapps to be rubber-stamped.
Another company involved in Rosebank, Ithaca Energy, still has concerns over investing in the project due to the poor investment climate in the North Sea, with the government weighing up a price floor in the windfall tax.
Sunak’s support of North Sea oil and gas production will likely come as a surprise to North Sea operators, which have witnessed his introduction, and toughening, of the Energy Profits Levy alongside long-term LNG deals with the US.