UK’s ‘Obscene’ Offshore Oil Plans Put COP 26 Credibility at Risk

The Energy Mix
Offshore Oil Rig - Swinsto101/Wikimedia Commons

June 25, 2021

Just four months before it plays host to COP 26, the United Kingdom is risking the remaining tatters of its threadbare climate credibility by considering the approval of an 800-million-barrel oil field extension off the Shetland Islands. 

The Cambo Field, located 125 kilometres northwest of the Shetlands in the North Atlantic, contains enough fossil reserves to be in operation through 2050, reports The Glasgow Herald. Siccar Point Energy and Shell have petitioned to gain access to the field, which would not fall under the UK’s new “climate checkpoint” laws since it was licenced for exploration between 2001 and 2004.

According to climate campaigners, the output of the field could result in the eventual release of emissions “10 times” what Scotland now produces annually. “It would be completely indefensible for the UK government to approve this development,” said Caroline Rance, climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland. 

At a special session of the Scottish Affairs Committee, the UK’s minister for business, energy, and clean growth, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, took pains to frame the area under consideration as “an extension of an existing oil field.” 

“In terms of oil, it’s not a new licence; there are no new licences this year,” she said.  

To Rance, it is “obscene” for the UK to consider such expanded oil development as the country prepares to host climate talks. 

“Burning fossil fuels is the key driver of climate breakdown and every extra barrel of oil and gas produced speeds us closer to greater devastation,” she told the Herald. 

The Cambo exploration, and its resulting emissions, await approval even as Boris Johnson is being urged by an independent advisory group to “level with people” about exactly what will be needed to cut emissions and adapt to the baked-in impacts of the climate crisis. This week, UK Climate Change Committee head Chris Stark told Climate News Network the UK must begin walking its talk on climate as the world heats up.

“Delivering what the UK has promised could be the basis of a better relationship between us and the U.S., Europe, and possibly even China,” he said. “Johnson needs to recognize that, to see the political opportunities delivery offers. The responsibility for what happens in Glasgow rests with him.” 

CCC Chair Lord Deben agreed, telling Climate News Network that any failure by the UK to deliver on its climate promises would put COP 26 itself at risk. And if the conference is deemed a failure, he added, “the whole concept of the UK being a global leader will be undermined.”

[Top photo: Swinsto101/Wikimedia Commons]