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New North Sea oil and gas licences will protect our net zero future

(Alamy)

3 min read

When it comes to global climate leadership, the United Kingdom’s record speaks for itself.

We were the first major economy to put our net zero target into law and to halve our emissions,  cutting them by 50 per cent between 1990 and 2022. We are a world leader in renewable electricity  – with the five largest operational offshore wind farm projects, and over 40 per cent of our electricity now coming from renewables, compared to just seven per cent in 2010.

And as we chart our path to net zero, we are ensuring we do so in a realistic way.

That’s why, alongside scaling up renewables and nuclear, we are backing Britain’s oil and gas sector to support domestic production off our shores.

In order to have energy security, we need to focus on the energy we have here at home

The reality is that oil and gas still meet around three quarters of the UK’s total energy needs. We also know that we’ll still need oil and gas for decades to come, even when we reach net zero in 2050, as data from the independent Climate Change Committee shows.

It is therefore just common sense that we should make the most of what we can produce here. 

Our plans will protect our energy security, our economy and our net zero future.

Through our Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which will be debated in Parliament again this week, we are safeguarding the future of our North Sea sector – creating certainty for industry by offering up the opportunity to apply for oil and gas licences annually.

The oil and gas industry supports 200,000 jobs across the UK, adds £16bn to our economy each year, and is expected to provide tens of billions in tax revenues which can help us drive down costs for households, and which can help us invest in new low-carbon technologies to accelerate the green transition and further drive down costs for households.

And as we work to cut emissions and seize the economic opportunities of net zero, we know our oil and gas industry will play an important role in the energy transition. Oil and gas companies are part of an integrated energy system, contributing to a wider supply chain that supports not just oil and gas production, but renewable energies and low-carbon technologies too.  We will need the investment, skilled workforce and expertise of the oil and gas sector to develop the green industries of the future, like offshore wind, tidal power, and carbon capture.

On top of this, it just makes environmental sense to take advantage of our own oil and gas resources rather than having to rely on imports. A failure to issue new licences wouldn’t stop the UK’s need for oil and gas – but would mean we would have to import more. It is instead far better to be able to use our own sources – with imported Liquefied Natural Gas having four times the carbon footprint of domestic gas production.

But crucially, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – two years ago this week – and subsequent weaponisation of energy showed us how important it is to boost our domestic energy security, preventing us from being held hostage to tyrants trying to hold the world to ransom on energy.

As the Prime Minister said in the North East this month, in order to have energy security, we need to focus on the energy we have here at home. That’s why we’re bringing forward this Bill, to back our North Sea oil and gas sector, protect jobs, grow our economy – and power Britain from Britain.

 

Graham Stuart, Conservative MP for Beverley and Holderness and energy security and net zero minister

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