London, (24th March, 2021, 08:40 pm) (AFP/APP):The British government on Wednesday angered environmentalists by saying it could license further oil and gas drilling in the North Sea, months before it hosts a climate change summit.
The government made the announcement as it unveiled a new “North Sea Transition Deal”, aimed at helping lower carbon emissions in the energy sector.
The deal says the UK will grant licences for further oil and gas drilling only if “they are compatible with the UK’s climate change objectives”.
The UK has committed to a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The country’s oil and gas in the North Sea remains strategically important, for generating power and also for boosting tax revenue and creating jobs.
At the same time, the government wants to massively reduce the environmental impact of North Sea oil and gas, since extraction in this area causes 3.5 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The deal announced Wednesday calls for the sector to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030, with help from joint government and oil and gas sector investment of up to £16 billion ($22 million, 18.5 million euros).
The reduction will be achieved by powering oil and gas platforms with renewable energy and using technologies such as carbon capture and storage, and production of hydrogen.
The government will also halt financing for fossil fuel projects abroad from March 31 this year.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government was “sending a clear message around the world that the UK will be a nation of clean energy”.
But environmental campaign groups questioned the UK’s commitment to reducing emissions as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to host the UN global climate summit COP26 in Glasgow in November.
Mel Evans, head of Greenpeace UK’s oil campaign, said the refusal to rule out new oil and gas licences was “a colossal failure in climate leadership in the year of COP26”.
Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said the deal’s failure to set an end date for extracting fossil fuels from the North Sea was a “glaring omission”.
Denmark, the European Union’s biggest oil producer post-Brexit, said in December it would halt all North Sea oil and gas production and exploration by 2050.
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