Rishi Sunak has insisted his plans to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves are “evidently” sensible as he faced a growing backlash for allegedly betraying climate pledges.
- The Prime Minister has been criticised over his announcement of around 100 new licences for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea by campaigners, opponents and a leading green Tory.
- New oil and gas fields are not compatible with a net zero by 2050 scenario and will derail the UK’s climate commitments.
- They are also unlikely to go online for several years and the feedstock will be sold on the global market at the best price, rather than domestically – they are unlikely to significantly contribute to the country’s energy security.
The Prime Minister has been criticised over his announcement of around 100 new licences for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea by campaigners, opponents and a leading green Tory.
Billionaire global investor Andrew Forrest has even suggested he could pull out of the UK if ministers follow a “clickbait cycle” rather than displaying “proper leadership”.
But Mr Sunak dismissed the concerns as he was warned watering down policies to tackle the climate crisis are on the “wrong side of modern voters”.
Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a beer festival in London, the Prime Minister insisted fossil fuels must be extracted in the UK on the way to net-zero by 2050.
“I think it’s evidently more sensible to get that from here at home,” Mr Sunak said on Tuesday.
“Why? It’s better for our energy security because we’re not relying on foreign dictators, better for the economy because it supports hundreds of thousands of jobs…
“And it’s actually better for carbon emissions because if we have to ship that energy here from halfway around the world it would have three or four times the carbon emissions by the time it got here.
“So any which way you look at it, what we’re doing is the right thing for the country, it’s the pragmatic thing.”
Tory MP Chris Skidmore, who led the Government’s net zero review, had said the move was the “wrong decision at precisely the wrong time, when the rest of the world is experiencing record heatwaves”.
He told the PA news agency: “It is on the wrong side of modern voters who will vote with their feet at the next general election for parties that protect, and not threaten, our environment.
“And it is on the wrong side of history, that will not look favourably on the decision taken today.”
Mr Sunak was even warned that the strategy could cause investors to switch their focus to the US, where president Joe Biden has unveiled vast investment to tackle the climate emergency.
Mr Forrest, an Australian mining entrepreneur and climate philanthropist, told Bloomberg News: “Take Britain, I am a major investor here. If I see this country steering itself over a cliff backing fossil fuel, I am going to start pulling out.
“I will push my investments over to North America … I must invest where I know I have proper leadership, not leadership which is on a clickbait cycle.”