Bill for new North Sea oil licences branded ‘climate change denier’s charter’

A new Bill aiming to maximise North Sea oil and gas production has been branded a “climate change denier’s charter”.

Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb added that the Bill is “dangerous” and “yet another example of the Government’s colossal stupidity”.

She told the House of Lords: “The continued expansion of fossil fuel extraction is incompatible with a liveable planet for humans and millions of species.

“It doesn’t matter where on Earth those fossil fuels are extracted from or what the balance of trade is, we need to massively cut our carbon emissions.”

Her comments came as peers in Westminster debated the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which introduces a duty on the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) to run an annual round of applications for new oil and gas production licences in the UK’s offshore waters.

Lady Jones accused the Government of being influenced by the oil and gas industry via donations to the Conservative Party.

She said: “I guess it came from Tufton Street and all the Conservative Party donors attached to the Global Warming Policy Foundation – and probably help from the oil and gas industry kindly donating millions to the Conservative Party.

“There are people who make profit from pollution and they want to carry on doing that for as long as they can.

“They don’t like net zero and renewables, because that means less money for them…

“So there are people who are killing this planet, while helping to keep the Conservative Party solvent.”

Jeremy Hunt
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt claimed domestic oil and gas is four times cleaner than imported oil and gas (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA credit)

She went on to say that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s claim that domestic oil and gas is four times cleaner than imported fuel is “incoherent nonsense that I can hardly believe anyone can say, let alone someone in that position”.

Lady Jones, who is a former deputy mayor of London, argued that the oil and gas extracted in the North Sea will not remain in the UK, but be sold on the international market.

She said the Government should instead shift to a wholescale transition to renewables and send “a clear message to investors and businesses that fossil fuel extraction is a dying industry”.

Internationally-renowned biodiversity expert Baroness Willis of Summertown added: “In many ways, deep sea oil and gas production is possibly more damaging to the environment than bottom trawling and that’s because it affects all parts of the ecosystem that species use to navigate, to reproduce, to feed and even to breathe.

“Each stage of oil and gas production causes damage.”

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher, said: “This Bill before us is committing us to fossil fuel production at the same time as we are asking other nations to transition away. Our messages are, at best, confused.

“We need to put away the old ways of damaging nature and instead do all that we can to preserve and protect it.”

Labour frontbencher Lord Lennie said the Bill “does not send the right signals to investors on the UK’s commitment to green industry”.

He said: “We need the UK to be made a clean energy superpower, with cheap energy, secure energy, so families and businesses are protected from spiralling bills, so that jobs and investment are boosted across the country.

“And that is the Labour Party’s mission: to cut bills, create jobs, deliver energy security and provide climate leadership. This Bill does pretty much the opposite”.

Energy efficiency and green finance minister Lord Callanan argued that, while the UK is one of the most decarbonised countries in the world, it still needs oil and gas during the transition to net zero.

Lord Callanan
Lord Callanan, parliamentary under-secretary of state for energy efficiency and green finance (Ben Birchall/ PA credit)

He said: “Restrictions on future licensing would be a grave act of national self-sabotage and would place over 200,000 jobs… in jeopardy.

“It would forgo up to a billion barrels of oil equivalent and of course remove an important source of tax revenue.”

He added: “Maintaining this resource reduces our vulnerability and that of our European allies to hostile states and leaves us less exposed to unpredictable international events.”

Former Tory Cabinet minister Lord Lilley backed up the Government, arguing that crude oil can be traded for usable products in a crisis, boosting the UK’s energy security.

He told peers that, if the UK stopped producing fossil fuels unilaterally, then “others would step in to provide them”.

Meanwhile, he said if the whole world decided to reduce supply faster than demand, it would “create shortages, massive price rises and huge profits for the oil industry; it will do to ourselves and the world exactly what Putin did to us when he invaded Ukraine and reduced supplies”.