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A protest against Shell's Cambo oil field project

Activists protest against the Cambo oil field project in the Shetland Islands in Glasgow, Scotland on November 11, 2021. (Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

'Protest Works': Cheers as Shell Signals Pullout of Cambo Oil Field Project

"We have to see the end of North Sea projects as well as all new fossil fuel extraction: There is no future in them."

Julia Conley

Climate campaigners in the United Kingdom applauded Thursday as oil giant Shell signaled it would not drill for oil in the proposed Cambo oil field off the coast of Scotland's Shetland Islands, following a grassroots effort to halt the project.

"Governments and oil and gas companies will—and are—being held accountable by people all over the world who know exactly who is to blame for the climate crisis."

Advocates said Shell's announcement that it had found a weak economic case for the Cambo project should deliver a "deathblow" to the proposal, and demanded the U.K. government end its support for drilling in the oil field, which would lie 78 miles west of the islands in the North Sea.

"With yet another key player turning its back on the scheme the government is cutting an increasingly lonely figure with their continued support for the oil field," Philip Evans, oil campaigner at Greenpeace U.K., told The Guardian.

Climate action group 350.org credited activists who have signed petitions, attended public actions, and pressured policymakers to scrap the project. Last summer, 80,000 people signed a letter that was sent to the U.K. government demanding the Cambo oil field be blocked.

"Protest works!" said 350 Europe.

Shell's decision to pull out of the project comes weeks after its plans to develop the Jackdaw gas field, also in the North Sea, were rejected by regulators due to the project's expected environmental impact.

The U.K. has committed to reaching net-zero fossil fuel emissions by 2050, a goal that advocates say is incompatible with drilling in the North Sea. The oil field contains over 800 million barrels of oil, the extraction of which would have a climate impact equivalent to 10 times Scotland's annual emissions.

Shell Oil would have controlled 30% of the Cambo oil field, with its partner Siccar Point Energy owning 70%. According to Reuters, it was unclear Thursday whether the oil field can be developed without Shell's involvement.

"We have to see the end of North Sea projects as well as all new fossil fuel extraction: There is no future in them," Connor Schwartz of Friends of the Earth told The Guardian. "Carrying on risks more than just balance sheets, it makes the path to 1.5°C even harder."

Tessa Khan, founder and director of climate action group Uplift, called Shell's withdrawal from the project "genuinely huge news" that could spell the end for oil and gas development in the U.K., considering Shell cited economic grounds for its decision.

"Governments and oil and gas companies will—and are—being held accountable by people all over the world who know exactly who is to blame for the climate crisis and the unavoidable implication of all those promises to preserve our climate: We have to keep fossil fuels in the ground," said Khan. "And countries like the U.K.—who are one of the biggest historical emitters of greenhouse gases, who have the resources to shift away from oil and gas, and who owe a huge climate debt to the rest of the world—have to move first."


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