The Government’s revised energy stategy has had extensive coverage since its release yesterday. One piece of good news is that the need for Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) is now back on the agenda. Sadly though, the Government has not taken this opportunity to reconsider the decision to continue to maximise  the exploitation of the North Sea gas and oil reserves, claiming that we will need it for decades to come, even though 78% of UK oil is not suitable for domestic purposes and will have to be exported.

As well as ignoring the warnings of the IEA and IPCC (the Government has recently approved the synthesis report) the strategy has been released in a week when The Times reported that “a dramatic shift in the flow of deep sea waters around Antarctica threatens to starve large parts of the world’s oceans of nutrients and oxygen within decades” and there was an oil spill in Poole Harbour. Baroness Brown, interviewed on The World Tonight stated that we can achieve energy security through improving the grid infrastructure and developing renewables and should not be developing more oil and gas fields. 

The most eloquent plea that the Government use the energy strategy as an opportunity to reset its policy on fossil fuel exploitation was a letter signed by over 700 UK scientists and delivered to the Government on the 28th March. Here is an excerpt……

The UK has previously shown that it understands the magnitude of the risks the world faces from the climate crisis and has repeatedly shown global leadership. In 2008, it became the first major economy to introduce a legal target for significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions through the Climate Change Act. In 2019, you and other Parliamentarians voted to amend the Act and the UK became the first major economy to set a legal target for achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

However, if the UK allows any new development of oil and gas fields, it will severely undermine those claims of leadership by contributing to further oversupply of fossil fuels, and making it more difficult for the world to limit warming to 1.5°C. Therefore, the UK should commit to preventing any new oil and gas field development, and the Government should state this commitment clearly in the forthcoming revised Net Zero Strategy.

There are those who might claim that stopping new developments of oil and gas fields would raise concerns about the affordability and security of future energy supplies, but there is now overwhelming evidence that the UK is far better served by a rapid transition to domestic clean energy sources, particularly renewables, and decarbonisation of our economy. Doubling down on fossil fuels will not lower energy bills or enhance our energy security.

The IPCC emphasised that feasible, effective, and low-cost alternatives to fossil fuels are already available. If the UK had moved more quickly in this direction in the past, it would not have been so exposed to the energy and cost of living crises caused by interruptions in supplies of fossil fuels following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Furthermore, numerous analyses, including an independent review led by Chris Skidmore which was published by your Government earlier this year, shows that investments in a net zero economy will generate jobs and growth across the UK. The evidence is overwhelming that our net zero ambitions are good for lives and livelihoods across the UK.

The IPCC report stated: “The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years”. Hence, the choices made by you, as the UK’s Prime Minister, about tackling the climate crisis will have far-reaching consequences, not just for your children and their children, but for the whole of humanity.

This is now a moment for political leadership. Please act to make the UK and the rest of the world safer and more prosperous for current and future generations.

Sadly the plea was not headed.