The Total Culzean platform is pictured in the North Sea, about 45 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland on April 8, 2019.

The Total Culzean platform is pictured in the North Sea, about 45 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland on April 8, 2019.

(Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

UK Labour Party Vows to Block All New North Sea Oil and Gas Projects If It Regains Power

"The commitment from Labour to oppose new fossil fuel developments is a welcome first step, but it needs to come with plans for a just transition to renewable energy," said one advocate.

While welcoming the Labour Party's vow to block new offshore oil and gas drilling if it wins control of the United Kingdom Parliament, climate justice campaigners on Tuesday implored the party to ensure that a shift to clean power is fair to displaced workers.

"The science is clear that to prevent further climate breakdown, we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground," Freya Aitchison, oil and gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said in a statement. "The commitment from Labour to oppose new fossil fuel developments is a welcome first step, but it needs to come with plans for a just transition to renewable energy."

On Sunday, an unnamed Labour Party source toldThe Times, "We are against the granting of new licenses for oil and gas in the North Sea." Alluding to a 2022 admission from John Gummer, a Conservative Party MP and chair of the U.K.'s independent Committee on Climate Change, the source said that such licenses "will do nothing to cut bills as the Tories have acknowledged."

"They undermine our energy security and would drive a coach and horses through our climate targets," said the source, who added that "Labour would continue to use existing oil and gas wells over the coming decades and manage them sustainably as we transform the U.K. into a clean energy superpower."

Labour Leader Keir Starmer is expected to formally announce the party's promise in Scotland next month when he unveils a net-zero energy policy blueprint. The Guardian reported Sunday that it "will involve not just a ban on new North Sea oil and gas licenses, but a pledge that any borrowing for investment should be limited to green schemes."

"Setting an end date for the extraction of fossil fuels will allow workers and communities to prepare for this transition."

Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, confirmed the party's plan. Speaking with Trevor Phillips of Sky News on Sunday, Ashworth said that "what we'll be doing in the coming weeks is outlining how we want to invest in the green jobs of the future to bring bills down, to create a more sustainable energy supply."

"We know we've got to move to more renewable sources of energy," said Ashworth. "It's important for our climate change commitments, but it's also the way in which we can bring energy bills down for consumers."

"This isn't about shutting down what's going on at the moment, we will manage those sustainably," the lawmaker continued.

Although Labour doesn't intend to halt already-approved offshore extraction in most cases, two key exceptions are drilling schemes in the Cambo and Rosebank oil fields, both of which the party vowed to block after Tories greenlighted them, The Guardian noted. The North Sea Transition Authority held another licensing round for fossil fuel exploration projects in January, receiving more than 100 bids and granting new licenses for Cambo as well as the Jackdaw gas field.

"If you stop all new exploration, you are going to have to fill the gap from somewhere and it won't all come from wind," said Ashworth. "We know that but the sums have been done."

"We do need to invest in wind. We need to invest in tidal, we need to invest in nuclear," he added. "We need more sustainable sources of energy supply in order to bring bills down for consumers and actually create jobs in this green transition."

According to Ashworth, "There are hundreds of thousands of jobs that will come online from the transition."

In Aitchison's words, "Starmer rightly recognizes that extracting new oil and gas in the U.K. will not bring down our skyrocketing energy bills—rather, it will cost the U.K. public money through huge loopholes in the windfall tax which incentivize companies to drill for more fossil fuels."

Last August, the U.K. Treasury estimated that the nation's energy firms were on track to enjoy up to £170 billion ($211 billion) in excess profits—defined as the gap between money made now and what would have been expected based on price forecasts prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine—over the next two years.

A 25% windfall tax on oil and gas producers approved last July is expected to raise £5 billion ($6.2 billion) in its first year. However, the existing surtax on excess fossil fuel profits, which lasts through 2025, includes loopholes enabling companies to significantly reduce their tax bill by investing more in oil and gas extraction, something the industry has claimed will increase supply.

But as Aitchison noted, "The majority of oil from U.K. fields is exported and sold to the highest bidder, so increasing our domestic production only benefits the oil companies that are already making record profits."

Aitchison called it "vital" for Labour's announcement to be accompanied by "plans to support workers in the oil and gas industry to transition to jobs in the renewables industry."

In March, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Platform, a London-based social and environmental justice group, publishedOur Power, a report that provides a roadmap for a just energy transition in the North Sea. The plan, backed by a coalition of offshore oil and gas workers, trade unions, and climate groups, is based on surveys of more than 1,000 workers who developed 10 demands to guide a rapid and equitable shift to renewables.

"Setting an end date for the extraction of fossil fuels will allow workers and communities to prepare for this transition," Aitchison said Tuesday. "It will provide certainty for the sector, making it clear that investing in renewables is the only choice for our energy future, and enabling workforce planning."

"The coming decade," she added, "must see concerted government intervention and investment to ensure a fast and fair phaseout of fossil fuels and a massive upscaling of renewables that protects livelihoods and creates plentiful decent green jobs."

As The Guardian reported:

The proposal is the latest in a series of Labour pledges over a move towards a greener economy, much of it pushed by Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary.

In 2021, the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, announced the party would invest £28 billion [$34.7 billion] a year in climate crisis-related measures, covering not just green energy but also areas such as home insulation, active travel, and flood defenses.

At last year's Labour conference, Starmer said Labour would set up a publicly owned energy company run on clean U.K. power, to be known as Great British Energy.

The next U.K. general election is scheduled to be held no later than January 28, 2025.

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