The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, as per the government, aims to enhance investor confidence and generate revenue for public expenditures. However, thirty cross-party Members of Parliament have urged the government to realign its priorities towards increasing renewable energy and reducing energy demand.
A coalition of Members of Parliament (MPs) has deemed the government’s strategy to optimize oil and gas extraction in the North Sea as “political theater” and cautioned that it violates international agreements.
The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, scheduled for later debate in the House of Commons, was strongly urged to be withdrawn by thirty cross-party MPs and peers in a letter to the Energy Security Secretary over the weekend.
Former cabinet minister and leader of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021, Sir Alok Sharma, did not sign the letter but criticized the measure today as well.
He referred to it as a “smoke and mirrors” stunt on the Today program, which furthers the notion that the United Kingdom is “retreating from climate action.”
The letter was organized by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change (Climate APPG), whose chair Caroline Lucas MP stated that the measure “will not reduce household bills or improve energy security, but it will jeopardize the achievement of our climate and nature objectives.”
Government statistics indicate that 80% of oil extracted in the United Kingdom is exported.
Debate Over UK Oil Licensing
The legislation would mandate that the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), an industry regulator, conduct yearly licensing rounds for newly developed oil and gas ventures.
According to the government, investor confidence would be bolstered, the United Kingdom would become more energy independent, and funds would be generated for public services or the transition to healthier energy.
However, the NSTA deemed the measure “not necessary” in September. It has the authority to issue licenses at will, and for the majority of the last decade, licensing sessions have occurred annually.
The letter published today referred to the measure, which was introduced a year ago as the government revised its position on climate change, as “political theater.”
The signatories opined that the government ought to “enhance the availability of inexpensive renewable energy sources and implement energy efficiency measures, both of which would substantially reduce consumer bills and enjoy broad public support.”
It was stated that new oil and gas licensing cycles will have minimal effect on the energy supply and security of the United Kingdom, primarily because the majority of the country’s gas has already been burned.
‘Diametrically opposed’ offshore legislation to COP28 pledge
The letter is primarily signed by Labour Party members of parliament, which has vowed to cease approving new oil and gas initiatives.
Chris Skidmore MP, a former government net-zero tsar, Daisy Cooper MP, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Zac Goldsmith, a former Conservative environment minister, all contributed to the roster.
Chris Skidmore declared his early resignation regarding the measure on Friday, stating, “I can no longer remain silent. The climate crisis at hand is of an urgency that cannot be politicized or disregarded.”
As the United Kingdom concluded its second-warmest year on record in December, it endorsed a commitment at the COP28 climate summit to “transition away” from fossil fuels.
The correspondence further stated that this agreement is diametrically opposed to this measure and the government’s pledge to “maximize out” the diminishing oil and gas reserves in the North Sea.
Balancing Energy Needs and Sustainability
The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the government’s climate advisors, stated in June that while the United Kingdom “will require some oil and gas” until it achieves its net-zero emissions target, “this does not justify the development of new North Sea fields.”
An official from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) stated that despite achieving net zero energy by 2050, the United Kingdom will continue to require oil and gas for several decades.
They further stated that it is logical to optimize our domestic supply rather than transporting liquefied natural gas that emits four times as much as gas produced domestically.
In addition to ensuring that carbon emissions do not surpass our legally mandated carbon budgets, these new licenses will support 200,000 jobs, ensure industry certainty, and generate tens of billions of dollars in tax revenue that can be invested in the green transition and used to assist individuals with living expenses.