Why the UK is not giving up on oil despite its Cop26 climate ambitions


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists that the world must “move from talk, debate and discussion to concerted real action on coal, cars, money and trees.” But the cessation of oil and gas production is not part of his plans to reduce emissions.

A few hundred kilometers northeast of where the delegates gathered for the police officer are British oil and gas fields in the North Sea. They contribute to 10 percent Scotland’s economy, and make Britain the second largest producer of oil and gas in Europe after Norway, which also seems reluctant to change course.

According to a policy known as “Maximum economic recovery”, The government plans to continue producing oil and gas for as long as it can. If approved by the UK Oil and Gas Authority, a new oil field, Cambo, from 2022, 800 million barrels of oil will be produced over approximately 25 years.

These plans were the focus of the Cop26 conference when the project was launched on Thursday (November 11). Outside the oil and gas alliance, the world’s first commitment to end the licensing of new oil and gas fields. At the initiative of Denmark and Costa Rica, so far only six other territories – France, Greenland, Ireland, Quebec, Sweden and Wales – have signed up as full members. Portugal, New Zealand and California joined as associate members (signaling the partial or temporary ban on new licenses), and Italy as a “friend”.

“Just as the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones, so the oil age will not end because we run out of oil,” said Dan Jørgensen, Danish Minister of Energy and Climate Change. “It will depend on whether countries do the right thing.”

“The idea is to unite countries that have decided on their own to curtail oil and gas production and turn them into a diplomatic force,” said Romain Yualalen of Oil Change International, a non-governmental organization. “For twenty-five years, the police have not been able to directly address the problem of oil and gas production, but now we have an initiative that is focused exclusively on this, and we hope that this will force other countries that want to be called ‘climate leaders’ to join forces. “

The UK government said in a statement that “while the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels continues to decline, the demand for oil and gas will continue but decline in the coming years as we increase our renewable energy capacity.”

Caroline Lucas, UK Greens MP, tweeted that “if the UK really set a” fast pace “- referring to what Johnson said at his press conference this morning (November 11) – in the climate talks, the UK prime minister would also” sign. ” The UK “should not develop the Cambo oil field, the equivalent of running 18 coal-fired power plants in a year,” said Ed Miliband, UK secretary of business and energy.

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Campaigners noted the formation of a coalition, but accelerating the phase-out of oil and gas production is a major challenge.

Oil is used in a wide variety of industries, including plastics and chemicals, and transportation. Meanwhile, gas is the cleanest of the three major fossil fuels and has a reputation for being a “transition fuel” between fossil fuels and renewable energies – despite the fact that bodies such as the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are all warning that it is incompatible. with zero emissions.

No company is featured in “List of oil and gas export”, Which shows the assets of about 900 companies, which account for almost 95% of production, published this week by the German non-profit organization Urgewald Foundation, plans to cease production. “Everyone is gambling to try to become the last oil and gas producer in the world,” said Niels Bartsch from Urgewald. “BP has a managed recession strategy. But if you look at the details, you can see that they are investing in blue hydrogen, which comes from natural gas, and their policy does not include Rosneft. [the Russian national oil company] in which they own 20% of the shares and which produces even more hydrocarbons than BP ”. BP was approached for comment New statesmanbut the company did not respond.

Oil companies do not have much diversification in their portfolios and are often state-owned, which means they find it difficult to abandon their core business and are protected from external pressures such as shareholder demands, Barch added.

However, Thursday’s announcement is generally seen by climate campaigners as a welcome move. “It is very important to reflect how much has changed in what people say about ending fossil fuels, which was not mentioned in Paris in 2015,” said Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Destination Zero campaign. “It’s amazing to finally hear countries pronounce the F word: fossil fuels. And also see how the policing process is moving from negotiation-oriented to implementation-oriented. “


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