“I was grimly unsurprised when I heard that the government had decided to ignore the many warnings of climate action groups and even the UN Secretary General, and allow the North Sea Transition Authority to push through plans for a new oil field at #Rosebank.”

Despite advisers on the Climate Change Committee telling them that going ahead with new fossil fuel development was ‘utterly unacceptable’, PM Rishi Sunak made it plain that he prioritises the profits of oil companies over the future of people and our planet by giving his seal of approval to the Rosebank Field Development Plan, under the guise of helping those struggling with the cost of living crisis.

I fail to understand how a project which will not actually produce oil until 2027, and which will most likely be sold on the international market at the going rate after that (the Norwegian oil company Equinor – the majority owner of Rosebank – confirmed that if the UK needs Rosebank oil, it would have to buy it at the same price as other countries) can have any tangible benefits for struggling British people? What it most certainly will have is a hugely detrimental impact on the climate, however.

Rosebank reportedly has the potential to produce 500 million barrels of #oil equivalent, enough to create as much CO2 as the annual CO2 emissions of the 28 lowest-income countries combined. Analysis from GlobalData reveals lifetime emissions from the site would take a huge chunk out of the UK’s climate plans, with total oil produced over its lifetime equivalent to more than half of the UK’s remaining carbon budget for total fuel supply.

Having already rowed back on existing commitments that would have helped the UK to reach its net zero targets just a week prior, surely now is not the time to be green lighting the ‘greatest act of environmental vandalism’ of our lifetimes. We know that the best way to secure energy, and to bring down bills for everybody in the long-term is to rapidly expand energy efficiency measures whilst boosting reliable and cheap renewables in harmony with nature’s recovery. We need better insulated homes, we need investment in green energy, and we need to see affirmative action to preserve the environment. We know it, and the government knows it.

So why insist on ignoring the science and play to the gallery of climate change sceptics, right wing tabloids and party zealots? One local MP, James Gray said of Mr Sunak’s U-turns on net zero

“It’s the right thing to do, albeit coming in over many years, and unpopular in at least some quarters … the … softening of some of the mechanisms towards Net Zero by 2050. He (Rishi Sunak) will still achieve that vision but will do so in pragmatic and economically less damaging ways”.

I don’t call mass pollution, betrayal of manifesto commitments on net zero and investment in fossil fuels over renewables “pragmatic” or “less damaging”. No wonder his colleague, the Chair of COP26, Alok Sharma is standing down at the next election …”

Julian Barlow is chair of Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy

Originally shared to LinkedIn on 9th October 2023