Britain approves huge, controversial oil and gas field in the North Sea
The British government approved the development of a huge oil and gas field in the North Sea Wednesday, sealing its commitment to keep producing fossil fuels for decades to come. The Rosebank field, situated northwest of Shetland in Scotland and majority-owned by Norwegian state-owned energy company Equinor, is the largest undeveloped oil and gas field in the North Sea, with the potential to produce 500 million barrels of oil. Its development has sparked fierce criticism for the impacts it will have on the climate crisis and the UKs ability to meet its pledge to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. We have today approved the Rosebank Field Development Plan which allows the owners to proceed with their project, said a spokesperson for oil and gas regulator the North Sea Transition Authority in a statement. The spokesperson added the decision had been made taking net zero considerations into account throughout the projects lifecycle. Net zero is where the world removes at least as much planet-heating pollution as it emits. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently said he wanted to max out oil and gas developments in the North Sea and issue hundreds of new licenses. Sunak has argued that these reserves will give the UK energy security and help lower bills. Even when weve reached net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will come from oil and gas. But there are those who would rather that it come from hostile states than from supplies we have here at home, Sunak said in a statement in July. But critics argue that the UK exports 80% of its oil. Rosebank will do nothing to lower fuel bills or boost UK energy security. Most of this oil will be shipped abroad and then sold back to us at whatever price makes the oil and gas industry the most profit, said Tessa Khan, executive director of UK campaigning organization Uplift and a climate lawyer. Climate groups also say that continuing to produce new fossil fuels decades into the future threatens the UKs climate commitments. The International Energy Agency said in 2021 that there could be no new oil and gas fields if the world wants to have a good chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Lyndsay Walsh, climate change policy adviser at Oxfam, said Rosebank locks the UK further into fossil fuel dependency and increasing emissions as record-shattering heatwaves, floods and wildfires destroy lives. An analysis from Uplift found that the planet-heating pollution produced by Rosebank would be enough to push the UK beyond its climate targets from 2028 onwards. Claire Coutinho, the UKs minister for energy security and net zero, said Rosebank will bring jobs and enable the UK to reduce reliance on oil and gas imports. We are a world leader at reducing carbon emissions but as much as we will be ambitious, we must be pragmatic, she posted on X (formerly Twitter) Wednesday. Rosebank is about twice the size of the controversial Cambo oil field, also in the North Sea, which was on course to be developed until Shell pulled out of the project in 2021, citing economic reasons. Uplift has said it will launch legal action against the government to challenge the Rosebank decision. The approval comes just a week after Sunak announced a delay of key climate commitments, including pushing back a ban on the sale of gasoline and diesel-powered cars and slowing plans to phase out gas boilers. Climate experts say those decisions will also make it much harder for the UK to meet its net zero commitments.