The UK’s offshore oil and gas industry body has been accused of “sneakily” blocking action to cut carbon emissions after claiming it supports a major new report on climate change – but adding that oil and gas should continue “to 2050 and beyond”.
Oil & Gas UK released a statement saying it “backs” Monday’s report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “for adding new impetus to the transition to low-carbon energy”.
However, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the report “must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet”, the OGUK claims oil and gas can be part of the solution.
Deirdre Michie, chief executive of OGUK, said in a statement: “The UK offshore oil and gas sector is changing, as oil and gas companies are increasingly pioneering greener energy. It’s vital we harness the sector’s 50 years of energy expertise to hit the government’s net zero targets.”
“But it’s important to remember that the Climate Change Committee has said we will still need oil and gas as part of a diverse energy mix to 2050 and beyond. The aim is to use new technologies to make these traditional fuels acceptable in our low-carbon future.”
OGUK’s statement was criticised by campaigners, who said the rhetoric concealed a “business as usual” approach that would block efforts to reach net zero emissions.
Philip Evans, oil campaigner for Greenpeace UK, told DeSmog: “The message from experts is the same, whether that’s the UN Secretary General or the International Energy Agency: to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, we can have no new oil and gas projects.”
He added: “When OGUK pushes low carbon solutions, that’s them sneakily blocking zero carbon solutions in order to maintain reliance on fossil fuels and keep their destructive drilling in business.”
“Humanity is at ‘code red’, and nice words won’t cut it. The UK government must urgently call an end to all new oil and gas licensing, stop new drilling projects like the Cambo oilfield, and give fossil fuel workers access to green jobs to power the energy transition.”
Caroline Rance, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “The burning of oil and gas is the key driver of the climate crisis. It is offensive for the oil and gas industry to say it has a role in solving climate change when they’ve known about it for decades but have chosen to deny the science, and block meaningful action rather than do what is necessary to save lives.”
“Oil and gas companies use greenwashing technology like fossil hydrogen and CCS [Carbon Capture and Storage] as a cover excuse to keep on drilling and exploiting fossil fuels.”
A spokesperson for OGUK robustly defended its position, saying halting oil and gas extraction would have “the direct opposite effect of what it sets out to achieve, obstructing low carbon technological innovation and disrupting the development of skills we need to deliver a successful transition to a more diverse, lower carbon energy mix”.
“Stopping production does nothing to address consumption of oil and gas,” they told DeSmog. “It would just shift the benefits delivered by our indigenous industry including contribution to the economy and highly skilled employment in the UK to other countries, leading to job losses and energy imports that may not meet the UK’s ambitions for greenhouse gas emission reductions.”
OGUK also pointed to its role in implementing the government’s North Sea Transition Deal, which allows new offshore drilling in the North Sea so long as projects pass a test on “climate compatibility” with net zero targets.
Campaigners have said the deal contradicts the government’s carbon targets and puts corporate interests above tackling climate change.