UK would miss climate change goal with oil extraction plans, report says

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 warns.

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

Industry and government aim to extract 20 billion barrels, according to the study by Platform, Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth Scotland.

The report said that recent subsidies for oil and gas extraction will add twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as the phase-out of coal power saves.

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 revoke undeveloped licences.

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.

“A Just Transition for workers and communities currently dependent on high carbon industries is an essential part of that.”

The report urges the UK and Scottish governments to work with affected communities and trade unions on a “Just Transition” plan to create new decent 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.

However, it found that given the right policies, job creation in clean energy industries will exceed affected oil and gas jobs more than threefold.

The report also warned that if all countries took the same approach as the UK – of “phasing out coal power while maximising oil and gas extraction” – resulting warming would significantly exceed 2C, 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.

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