King Charles was reportedly booed by environmentalists as he and Camilla, the queen-consort left Parliament this morning after he delivered the King’s Speech.
Confirmed in today’s programme of upcoming new laws, the last before premier Rishi Sunak’s administration seeks direct electoral legitimacy for the first time, is an offshore petroleum licensing bill.
The proposed law will enact the intention of Sunak’s government, as announced after the South Uxbridge by-election in July, to “max out” the North Sea’s potential to yield more planet-heating production and consumption of oil and gas.
This morning’s speech delivered by the monarch, the first given by a king in seventy years, portrayed turning on more offshore taps for hydrocarbons as effective in easing the cost of living crisis and reducing the nation’s exposure to foreign tyrants controlling oil production.
Honouring the tradition of his late mother, Charles, a lifelong environmentalist, adopted a studiously neutral tone of voice when citing a programme of annual grants by his government for new extraction of fossil fuels.
Other environmental advocates were less reticient.
“There is no evidence that the commodities extracted through these new rounds ( – of North Sea oil extraction -) would be supplied into the UK market, and therefore how they contribute to energy security or lower bills, “ stated the Aldersgate Group, a green-minded gathering of many of Britain’s biggest companies, climate scientists and civil society representatives.
“By contrast, it is clear that domestic production of renewable energy supports security and diversification directly, so we welcome the renewed commitment to attracting investment into renewables and reforming grid connections”, the group’s statement added.
Rachel Solomon Williams, the Aldersgate Group’s executive director, went on; ““It is crucial that the UK Government focuses on delivering on its climate and environmental ambitions in the upcoming parliamentary session”,
The lobbyists for Britain’s fast-expanding green sector called on Sunak’s chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his Autumn Statement later this month to ensure that the UK remained an attractive destination for low-carbon investment.
“Maintaining a priority focus on low carbon generation will be essential for the UK to retain credibility as an international climate leader as we approach COP28”, the Aldersgate statement added.
“Other nations – along with investors – are looking to the UK to deliver a consistent commitment to delivering Net Zero. This would be best served by doubling down on the implementation of existing carbon budget plans.
Sunak’s words, as recited by the monarch this morning before peers and MPs, re-committed the Conservative administration to achieving Net Zero by 2050.
New laws reforming the rights of leaseholders and home renters in England and Wales, an effective ban on children buying cigarettes and vapes, and curbs on public rights to protest were announced today by the monarch on his government’s behalf.
Caroline Lucas, Westminster’s sole Green Party MP, decried Sunak’s fixation on new oil and gas. It was to be introduced, said Lucas, at the expense of a new mass drive promoting home insulation which the country needed much more urgently.
Lucas alleged that energy security secretary Claire Coutinho had admitted drilling for more oil would have no effect in cutting Britons’ energy bills, since most of new North Sea extraction would be sold on international markets.
Responding to the proposed new oil and gas licencing, Sam Richards from pro-growth campaign group Britain Remade, said: “Including new legislation to mandate annual North Sea oil and gas licensing rounds in the King’s Speech is little more than political posturing that is unlikely to increase domestic oil and gas production.
“Rather than wasting time trying to create political dividing lines, the Prime Minister should be going hell for leather to speed up the building of new sources of clean energy.
“Britain hasn’t even got out of the starting blocks when it comes to small modular reactors” said Richards. “While the US has an approved design and SMRs are being built in China and Poland, we don’t even know where these new mini nuclear plants will be allowed to be built”.
“Government urgently needs to spend more time working on getting more new nuclear built, and less time on political games.”