Westminster has been accused by environmental groups of “abdicating all responsibility” for tackling climate change.
Greenpeace, Uplift and Friends of the Earth Scotland have all condemned the UK Government after plans to issue new offshore licences were set in stone.
And the former is now considering measures to try to prevent it from happening, including taking legal action.
Following delays due to the Queen’s death, the North Sea Transition Authority confirmed on Thursday that a new licensing round will take place next month.
More than 100 permits are expected to be dished out, paving the way for developers to search for new oil and gas sources.
In tandem the UK Government published the long-awaited findings of its climate compatibility checkpoint consultation.
It set out requirements that new licences will need to meet in order to get the go ahead, including being in toe with pledges to cut offshore emissions.
But Greenpeace has described the checkpoint as a “sham”, and believes fresh permits will “torpedo” the UK’s energy security.
The campaign group also confirmed it is chewing over legal action in order to block them from progressing.
Philip Evans, energy security campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “The government is pandering to outdated, fringe fossil fuel interests. A government that fails to launch an emergency nationwide programme to make homes energy secure is simply not serious about energy security, lowering bills, or tackling the climate crisis.
“Meanwhile Europe strides ahead with tangible solutions like home insulation, heat-pumps, solar panels, and windfall taxes to finance these urgent fixes.
“New fossil fuel licences are the opposite of energy security. We believe this licensing round is unlawful and we’ll be looking at taking legal action.”
North Sea ramp up a ‘fool’s game’
Energy security has been a top priority for governments following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
Just a few days into the job, Prime Minister Liz Truss laid out her plan to boost domestic energy sources and address soaring household bills.
A key pillar of her plan is to scale up North Sea oil and gas production, something Uplift has described as a “fool’s game”.
A spokesperson for the group said: “The government acknowledges that the world is producing far more oil and gas than we can burn if we are to hope to maintain a liveable climate. So, it is not in denial. But it is abdicating all responsibility for it, blaming the ‘improbability of global cooperation’ to reduce fossil fuel production as a reason not to act.
“The UK used to claim to lead the world when it came to tackling the climate crisis. This government appears to have given up on this role and its ambition. It has entirely capitulated to the oil and gas industry.
“The government is also trying to pass the buck to the regulator for decisions on new licensing rounds. This is a cowardly attempt by Ministers to avoid taking responsibility for actions that worsen the climate crisis. The long-awaited climate compatibility checkpoint is meaningless. It could reveal that emissions from a planned development are astronomical and Ministers wouldn’t be bound to reject it.”
Calls for Sturgeon to step up
Yesterday in Holyrood, a Green Party MSP accused Ms Truss of trying to “drill her way” out of the current crisis.
Nicola Sturgeon has taken an increasingly dim view of oil and gas, and last year declared her opposition to the controversial Cambo field.
Energy is a reserved matter for Westminster, but Friends of the Earth Scotland has called on the First Minister to oppose the upcoming licensing round.
Oil and gas campaigner with the group, Freya Aitchison said: “The Scottish Government must be willing to stand up to these reckless plans to expand fossil fuels and hand out permits for oil and gas companies to explore and drill in the North Sea. These plans will lock us into a climate-destroying energy system for decades to come, entrenching reliance on this volatile industry in places like Aberdeen, and leaving people all across Scotland exposed to rocketing energy bills.”