Rishi Sunak criticised for ‘mind-blowing’ endorsement of oil and gas drilling by environmental groups

‘Chancellor has chosen to side with the oil and gas industry,’ campaigner says

Zoe Tidman
Friday 04 February 2022 13:51 GMT
<p>Rishi Sunak has been criticised over comments on North Sea investment</p>

Rishi Sunak has been criticised over comments on North Sea investment

Rishi Sunak has been criticised for a “mind-blowing” announcement he wants to encourage more investment in new fossil fuel drilling, with environmental groups saying this was a step in the wrong direction.

Campaigners accused the chancellor of “siding” with the oil and gas industry and hypocrisy given current climate goals.

Scientists previously said there was no room for new fossil fuels if the world wants to reach net zero emissions by 2050 - with the UK having set this target for itself.

But Mr Sunak said on Thursday he wanted to encourage investment in the North Sea given the resources there.

“We’re going to need natural gas as part of our transition to getting to net zero,” he said. “And in the process of getting from here to there, if we can get investment in the North Sea that supports British jobs, that’s a good thing.”

But his comments have been slammed by environmental campaigners and climate policy experts.

“For Rishi Sunak to encourage new investment in drilling for fossil fuels in the North Sea is utterly mind-blowing,”  Giles Bristow from climate crisis charity Ashden told The Independent.

“Climate change is here – now. The business community accepts the science that unequivocally tells us we have to move on from old, dirty fossil fuels and deliver a rapid but managed transition to a clean net zero economy.”

According to the International Energy Agency, natural gas is the “cleanest burning” fossil fuel - but this still emits greenhouse gases.

Gas prices has also been held responsible for the ongoing energy crisis, which has resulted in rising household bills in the UK.

A further energy price cap increase was confirmed on Thursday, paving the way for bills to increase yet again in spring.

Tessa Khan from campaign group Uplift told The Independent: "The chancellor has chosen to side with the oil and gas industry.

“Yesterday, he dumped all the costs of soaring gas prices on UK households rather than claw back some of the obscene profits these companies are making.”

Meanwhile Jamie Peters from Friends of the Earth said: “The chancellor acknowledges that the energy crisis is a result of our dependency on gas, but then declares his ambition to unlock £11bn of investment in the North Sea.

He added: “This is blatant hypocrisy after months of government posturing in the run up to the UN climate talks.”

A Treasury spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to meeting our climate commitments and our recent net zero strategy set out how the UK will transition to a green and sustainable future, including through £380m investment in our world-leading offshore wind sector.

“As the chancellor made clear, natural gas will play a part in our transition to getting to net zero. While we are working hard to drive down demand for fossil fuels, an orderly transition is crucial to maintaining our energy security of supply.”

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