Britain to grant new North Sea oil, gas licenses despite calls from environmentalists
LONDON - Britain will grant hundreds of new North Sea oil and gas licenses in a bid to boost the country's energy independence. The decision has elicited criticism as concerns mount over its impact on the environment. According to the government, the move will increase the country's energy security and will protect over 200,000 jobs. As Britain is a rapidly declining producer of oil and gas, new oil and gas licenses reduce the fall in British supply in order to ensure vital energy security, rather than increase it above current levels -- so that Britain remains on track to meet net zero by 2050, the government said in a statement on Monday. "Even when we've reached net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will come from oil and gas," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. "We're choosing to power up Britain from Britain and invest in crucial industries, such as carbon capture and storage, rather than depend on more carbon intensive gas imports from overseas," he said. The first new licenses, over 100 in total, are expected to be awarded in the autumn. Also on Monday, the British government confirmed that two projects - one in Scotland and another in northern England -- have been chosen as the third and fourth carbon capture usage and storage clusters in the country. While some experts have welcomed the decision, others were more critical. "Extracting more fossil fuels from the North Sea will send a wrecking ball through the UK's climate commitments at a time when we should be investing in a just transition to a low-carbon economy and our own abundant renewables," Oxfam's Climate Change Policy Advisor Lyndsay Walsh said. Friends of the Earth's head of policy Mike Childs also noted that climate change is already battering the planet with unprecedented wildfires and heatwaves across the globe. "Granting hundreds of new oil and gas licenses will simply pour more fuel on the flames, while doing nothing for energy security as these fossil fuels will be sold on international markets and not reserved for UK use," Childs added. Three in four Britons think climate change is a serious global threat, with one in four saying it is out of control, an Ipsos survey showed on Thursday. More generally, 77 percent of Britons are concerned about climate change and global warming. "People on balance believe the costs of inaction will outweigh the costs of measures to reduce climate change, and are looking for action from government as well as individuals and businesses," Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos, said.