U.K. PM Sunak announces more North Sea oil and gas exploration and carbon capture plans

The U.K. government is planning to slow the decline in the production of oil and gas, to secure domestic supplies

Updated - July 31, 2023 07:28 pm IST

Published - July 31, 2023 06:03 pm IST - LONDON

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. File.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. File. | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Rishi Sunak government on Monday announced that it would grant over 100 licenses for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea starting in the autumn. The British government also announced that it would support new carbon capture and storage initiatives. Monday’s announcement was criticised by opposition politicians and environmental groups. The U.K. has committed to achieving ‘net zero‘ carbon emissions by 2050.

The government is planning to slow the decline in the production of oil and gas, to secure domestic supplies, a Downing Street statement said, citing the U.K.’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), a statutory body that advises the U.K. government on climate targets and assesses its performance against these.

“Even when we’ve reached net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will come from oil and gas,” said Mr Sunak, citing a CCC statistic. The U.K. Prime Minister was visiting Aberdeenshire in Scotland — which, along with the Humber area in northeastern England, has been identified as a site for the carbon capture, utilisation and storage clusters. These two sites are expected to be operational by 2030, the U.K. government announced.

“But there are those who would rather that it come from hostile states than from the supplies we have here at home,“ said Mr Sunak, who accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of weaponising global supplies.

Mr. Sunak also confirmed that he was committed to another U.K. climate target — a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

U.K. Shadow Climate Secretary, Ed Miliband, criticised Mr. Sunak’s licensing announcement. Mr. Miliband’s Labour Party is opposed to expanding licenses.

“This is the guy who has led the U.K. to being the worst hit of any country in Western Europe by the energy crisis. 13 years of Conservative failure left this country exposed,” Mr. Miliband said tweeted on Monday.

Environmental group Greenpeace voiced its opposition to the licensing plans.

“No amount of carbon capture and storage, which the Prime Minister is enthusing about today, will make this acceptable,” Greenpeace U.K.’s chief scientist, Doug Parr, said on Twitter.

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