The UK has a pipeline of at least 40 major projects in oil, gas or coal extraction and refining awaiting planning consent, environmental analysts claim, on the eve of CoP26.

Research by Friends of the Earth and the New Economics Foundation (NEF) claims that, if approved, the projects could quadruple UK carbon emissions, by contributing an extra 1.3 billion tonnes per year.

All forty are scheduled for planners’ decisions over the next four years, NEF researcher Rebekah Diski claims.

The assertions are timed to embarrass Westminster and Holyrood ministers, already facing concerns over their carbon-cutting credibility, related to expansion of the Cambo oilfield west of Shetland, and approval of a new coal mine in Whitehaven.

Both Cambo and the West Cumbria mine top the FoE-NEF list. In summary, their report cites

  • 30 offshore oil and gas projects seeking or expected to seek approval between now and 2025.
  • 7 onshore oil and gas projects.
  • 3 coal mines

All 40 projects would contravene a landmark International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) report earlier this year,  the researchers claim.

As hosts of CoP26, the UK requested the IEA report published in July as a key input to the Glasgow summit. CoP26 President Alok Sharma welcomed an early draft,  the analysts assert.

“The IEA said unequivocally that if the world is to stay within the 1.5°C limit, no new coal extraction projects and “no new oil and natural gas fields are required beyond those that have already been approved for development”, FoE/NEF write.

“Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director said, “if governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now”.

The analysts claim that, since signing the Paris climate accords in 2015, the UK has spent £4 billion supporting oil and gas firms, including tax reliefs for decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure. They cite analysis of HMRC data by Paid to Pollute.

In an upcoming legal challenge against the Oil and Gas Authority and D-BEIS, Paid to Pollute – in the name of campaigners Mikaela Loach, Jeremy Cox and Kairin van Sweeden –  argue that by not including the significant tax breaks that oil and gas companies receive in its definition of “economic recoverability”, the OGA’s new strategy to maximise economic recovery of offshore oil and gas is unlawful and will endanger the UK’s climate targets.

Friends of the Earth and NEF claimed to have found 30 offshore projects that have either applied for development consent or are forecast to do so by 2025.17

“If these all go ahead, their combined lifecycle emissions could amount to over one billion tonnes of CO2e, double the yearly emissions for the entire UK.

“That just covers the project phases that could be approved between now and 2025; emissions from the full projects would be much larger.

Among recommendations to ministers, the NEF/FoE report calls for ministers to

  • Reject applications for development consent, including the Cambo oil field and the proposed coal mine in Cumbria.
  • Cancel all future licensing rounds and revoking undeveloped licences.
  • Amend  relevant National Policy Statements on energy, specifying that additional infrastructure for fossil fuel extraction is not needed
  • Refuse planning permission for all new fossil fuel extraction, either by means of changes to the National Planning Policy Framework or through a new written ministerial statement.
  • Withdraw support for the proposed oil site on Horse Hill, Surrey, by reversing stated support from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for consent already granted locally. The Court of Appeal is due to hear the case on 16 November.

Read the full report here.


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