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UK’s fossil fuel use increased since declaring climate emergency

Words: Huw Morris
North Sea oil platform

An extra 800 million barrels of oil has been brought into production since the UK declared a climate emergency in 2019, according to Friends of the Earth Scotland.

The increase, revealed in research by the environmental charity, will release 361 megatonnes* (Mt) of CO2 when combusted. This is equivalent to more than 35 year’s worth of emissions from Scotland’s last coal-fired power station, Longannet, which closed in 2016 and emitted 9.5 Mt CO2 a year.

The study says there are now 6.5 billion barrels of oil in UK developed fields with another 13.5 billion in fields earmarked for future development.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said current UK and Scottish Government law requires “every last drop of this oil” to be drilled from the North Sea “regardless of its devastating climate impact”. 

It warned that the UK and Scottish Governments must reject all new oil and gas developments to uphold the commitment to the Paris climate agreement goal of limiting dangerous warming to 1.5°C. This includes the controversial Cambo oil field off Shetland, which contains 800 million barrels of oil and gas.

The campaigners also called for a rapid phase out of oil and gas production in the next decade, accompanied by an increasing emphasis on renewables to ensure “a just transition” for affected workers and communities.

“Oil and gas are the accelerants of the climate fire engulfing the world, yet both the UK and Scottish Governments are still committed to extracting every last drop of fossil fuels from the North Sea,” said Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Climate and Energy Campaigner Caroline Rance.

“Writing the rules for the benefit of fossil fuel companies and encouraging major polluters to keep on drilling for decades to come cannot possibly be reconciled with the action that is needed to cut climate pollution.

“This toxic combination of political and financial support means the UK now has 6.5 billion barrels of oil and gas in fields that are already open and being drilled, which is more than enough to see us through the transition to clean renewable energy.

“Every time the UK opens a new oil field we get further away from a well-planned just transition.”

* A megatonne is a metric equivalent to one million tonnes, or one billion kilograms.

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