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Oil and gas extraction plans causing UK to miss climate change goal

Image credit: Jonathan Mitchell | Dreamstime.com

Extracting the 5.7 billion barrels of oil and gas in fields already operating would see the UK miss its climate change goals, a new report has warned.

Industry and the UK government aim to extract 20 billion barrels from existing oil and gas fields, according to the study by Platform, Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth Scotland.

The report says that recent subsidies for oil and gas extraction will add twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as the phasing out of coal power is predicted to save. It also found that opening new fields would nearly quadruple the emissions from UK oil and gas.

The report calls on the UK and Scottish governments to stop issuing licences and permits for new oil and gas exploration and development, and to revoke undeveloped licences.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said that extracting the 5.7 billion barrels from oil and gas fields would exceed the UK’s share in relation to the international Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Climate science is clear that we urgently need to phase out fossil fuels, yet the government and big oil are doing everything they can to squeeze every last drop out of the North Sea.

“To tackle the climate emergency head-on we must ban oil and gas exploration now and redirect the vast subsidies propping up fossil fuel extraction towards creating decent jobs in a clean energy economy.

“Real climate leadership means making tough decisions now that put us on a path to a climate-safe future.”

The report urges the UK and Scottish governments to work with affected communities and trade unions on a ‘Just Transition’ plan to create new jobs in clean industries, alongside a managed phase-out of oil and gas extraction.

It warns that failing to begin a transition now will mean later action would have to be so rapid as to cause a collapse of the industry, putting tens of thousands of jobs and regional economies at risk.

Given the right policies, the report posits that job creation in clean energy industries could exceed affected oil and gas jobs more than threefold.

The report also warns that if all countries took the same approach as the UK - that of “phasing out coal power while maximising oil and gas extraction” - the resulting global warming would significantly exceed 2°C, moving “dangerously beyond” the Paris goals.

The Scottish Government wants to hit 'net-zero' greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and has lodged changes to legislation to set new tougher targets. Glasgow, for example, has declared its ambition to become the first city in Britain to be carbon-neutral in a drive to tackle climate change.

The latest report from the International Energy Agency, 'World Energy Investment 2019', published earlier this week, identified that fossil fuels are in fact propping up the decline in global energy spending. This spend stabilised in 2018 after three years of decline, with fossil fuel investment bouncing back in comparison to falling funds for energy efficiency and renewables.

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