Opponents of fossil fuel developments in southern England have described the government’s climate criteria for future oil and gas licences as “inherently flawed”.
Ministers have proposed a climate compatibility checkpoint will decide whether new licences should be offered for exploration and production, both on and offshore. There are six tests that must be passed to avoid a pause in licensing.
Responding to a government consultation, the Weald Action Group said the checkpoint threatened UK net zero targets and global climate stability.
The group called for:
- Immediate moratorium on onshore and offshore oil and gas projects that have been licensed but not approved.
- Block on all future licensing rounds
- Scrapping of the climate compatibility checkpoint
Weald Action Group said:
“We are in a climate emergency and no new fossil fuel projects are compatible with maintaining a stable climate. If we are to have any hope of keeping global average temperature rise below 1.50 c it is crucial that new oil and gas exploration is halted now. “
“The proposed oil and gas climate compatibility checkpoint is an inherently flawed premise that threatens the delivery not only of the UK’s net-zero target but, more importantly, of the global stability of the climate.”
The checklist creates doubt about the timing and speed of the UK’s move out of fossil fuels, the group said:
“This will create uncertainty for thousands of oil and gas workers who have a right to a just transition to sustainable and secure professions.”
Weald Action Group added:
“The UK bears a huge historic greenhouse gas emissions burden, is a developed country with a diversified economy much less dependent on oil and gas compared to other parts of the world, and has access to significant sources of clean renewable energy. As such, the UK must be one of the countries that goes first in ending new oil and gas exploration and production.”
The group said its arguments had been backed recently by:
- UK Fires research consortium – called in October 2021 for the cancellation of the latest permissions for new North Sea projects
- Researchers at University College London – called last week (16 February 2022) for a moratorium on new oil and gas fields
- Medical leaders – called last week (14 February 2022) for an immediate end to issuing new licences
Weald Action Group said the flaws in the checkpoint included:
Licensing It applies only to new oil and gas licensing rounds, ignoring the significant climate impact of already licensed but not approved projects.
Tests Some of the proposed potential tests risk “skewing the checkpoint in favour of allowing further licensing rounds”, the group said. It said carbon capture and storage, for example, must be used only as part of a transition out of fossil fuels. It should not be a means of extending oil and gas exploration and production.
Clarity There was also a “worrying lack of clarity” about how potential tests in the checklist would be weighted, the group said in its response. There was a risk, it said, that a proposed test which assesses the UK’s status as a net exporter or importer would have more influence than tests considering carbon emissions from the use of production oil or gas.
Weald Action Group also called for more political focus on managing energy demand, which it said was frequently bypassed in discussions about security of supplies.