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‘If we keep drilling for fossil fuels, billions will die’

The fight against the newly approved Rosebank oil field ‘is not over’, environmental campaigners warn

CLIMATE campaigners have warned “the fight’s not over” after the Rosebank oil field, estimated to contain 545 million barrels, was given the green light.

The North Sea Transition Authority’s licence approval came just days after Rishi Sunak U-turned on a raft of government measures aimed at achieving net-zero by 2050, a target the PM still claims will be met.

Plans to exploit the field had been shelved at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow two years ago.

But it is thought that a huge 90 per cent tax handout to oil giants for new drilling and statements of support for new oil and gas from Tory ministers put the possibility back on the table.

Oil and gas majors have benefited from the dramatic increase in oil and gas prices over the last 18 months, posting billions of pounds in profits while energy costs drove inflation to generational highs and fuel poverty rockets across the country.

Despite this, oil and gas companies willing to open up new fields have benefited from over £11 billion government subsidies in the name of “energy security” over the last year.

The estimated £3.7bn subsidy likely to flow their way is thought to be a key factor in Norwegian oil giant Equinor and British partners Ithica Energy revisiting the project.

GMB general secretary Gary Smith, who had earlier this year branded Labour’s “no new licences” policy “naive,” welcomed the news.

He said: “If the UK is to achieve better energy independence and be in the global race for climate jobs, we need a plan, not bans.”

However, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea argued: “This regressive move will not reduce a single energy bill.

“Instead, it spells doom for future generations, and further tarnishes the UK’s global record on climate change.”

Scottish Labour’s Monica Lennon branded the approvals as “ecocide” and Labour MP Beth Winter called on the party to “cancel” the decision in office.

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was not to be moved, insisting the decision would not be reversed in the name of “stability” should he take No 10.

He said: “As a matter of principle we will accept the baseline that we inherit from the government if we win that election … in order to ensure we have the stability that we desperately need in our economy.”

After months of criticism from environmental campaigners for the SNP-Green Scottish government’s silence on Rosebank, Scottish Greens’ environment spokesman Mark Ruskell warned: “Rishi Sunak is leaving a long and shameful legacy that will last well beyond his time in Downing Street.” 

First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “What I would say is I think Rosebank is the wrong decision.

“The decision that has been made today it is not the right decision to be made.”

Climate activists have vowed to fight on against the decision, arguing it will do nothing to bring down energy prices or delivering energy security.

End Fuel Poverty Coalition’s Simon Francis said: “Hidden in the small print of the deal is that this project can only go ahead thanks to a massive tax break [£3.75bn] the government is giving to international oil and gas giant Equinor.

“Households struggling with their energy bills will be shocked that the new Energy Secretary has chosen to hand a multibillion-pound tax break to this Norwegian firm, rather than help people in the UK suffering in fuel poverty. 

“This sum alone could have provided much-needed additional support to help disabled households, those living off the gas grid and the elderly.”

Just transition campaigners Uplift plan to challenge the decision in the courts.

Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift and a climate lawyer, said: “Rosebank is a rip-off.

“It’s another case of the government allowing foreign companies to profit, while the costs are put on British people who worry about the world we are handing on to our children.

“There are strong grounds to believe that the way this government has come to this decision is unlawful.”

Other climate activists are however planning a more direct approach. 

Fossil Free London will hold a protest against Rosebank this Saturday outside the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and has vowed to shut down the Energy Intellgence Forum, to be held in London next month, where Equinor CEO Anders Opedal is due to speak.

The group’s Joanna Warrington said: “We need Rosebank like we need a hole in the head.

“Nature is being ravaged, our rights to survival are being trampled on and it’s time for ordinary people to insist on their health and their lives.

“We will not let Rosebank go ahead. We will not die quietly.”

A spokesperson for climate group This is Rigged told the Star: “If we keep drilling for more fossil fuels, millions — to be brutally honest — billions of people will die.

“How the f*** has that passed an ‘environmental regulator’?

“We’re surrounded by blatant lies and Orwellian double-speak.

“The fight’s not over yet.”

Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho said the approval would “enable us to have greater energy independence, making us more secure against tyrants like [Vladimir] Putin.”


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