Former energy secretary Alok Sharma MP, chair of the UN CoP conference in Glasgow in 2021, is among Conservative rebels unable to support tonight’s vote in Parliament to approve over 100 new licences to extract North Sea Oil.

The MP joins fellow Tories and former ministers Chris Skidmore and Lord Zac Goldsmith in public opposition to premier Rishi Sunak’s intention to give the green light to more fossil fuels drilled from UK-controlled sources.

Sharma, an energy secretary under disgraced premier Johnson, this morning reminded listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that, in his words;

“Just a few weeks ago at Cop28 the UK government signed up to transition away from fossil fuels. This bill is actually about doubling down on new oil and gas licences. It is actually the opposite of what we agreed to do internationally, so I won’t be supporting it.”

Skidmore, commissioned by Johnson as author of a review of UK energy’s compliance with the government’s Net Zero goals, resigned as a Conservative MP last week, in protest at Sunak’s and Truss’ recent watering down of environmental commitments, such as pushing the cessation of new ICE cars back by five years to 2035.

Skidmore’s Gloucestershire seat us set to disappear later this year under boundary changes.  But his statement on Friday left the door open to him standing down sooner, triggering a further tricky by-election for Sunak’s administration.

Also declared in opposition at tonight’s vote is former environment minister Lord Goldsmith. He told a newspaper: “Conservatives are facing almost certain defeat at the election and so now is not the time for colleagues to be slavishly obedient to a leadership that simply will not be there in a matter of months.

“This vote is about something so much more important than the average vote” Goldsmith added, “and members will not be able to sanitise their records in the years to come.

“Some will be ex-MPs, others will cling on, but all of them will want to be able to tell their children and grandchildren that they were on the right side of history”.

The 49-day premiership of Liz Truss witnessed new government moves to greenlight fresh extraction of hydrocarbons.

The government has weakened its line that oil and gas newly drilled from UK reserves – such as Rosebank off Shetland –  will be dedicated to home consumption, thus enhancing the nation’s energy security.

A D-ESNZ answer emerging over Christmas to a question from Labour MP Russell-Moyles confirmed that, contrary to former assurances, at least 80% of output from the Shetland field will indeed be traded on international markets, and not reserved for home consumption.

New analysis released today from academic commentators the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit points out that offshore extraction can only continue to dwindle in importance as a source of Britain’s energy security, irrespective of new licences.

Dr Simon Cran-McGeehin, the ECIU’s head of analysis said “New licences are a distraction from policies that would have a real, lasting impact on the UK’s energy independence. Oil from new fields such as Rosebank will be traded internationally – as the government has admitted.

“This oil is not earmarked for the UK and it won’t make any real difference to UK prices“.


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