Sunak “deaf to science” on N Sea licences, so scientists write again


Rishi Sunak twice ignored warnings from nearly 700 leading climate scientists when he approved on Monday “over a hundred” new extraction licences benefitting oil companies in the North Sea.

The move came as it emerged Sunak’s father-in-law’s firm Infosys signed two months ago a service contract worth a reported $1.5 billion with BP, a major North Sea operator.  Yesterday the supermajor announced record global profits of £2 billion for the quarter to July.

Before the premier’s announcement this week of the North Sea bonanza, Professor Emily Shuckburgh, director of Cambridge University’s Cambridge Zero project and Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute, wrote on 20 July to Sunak, reminding him he had not responded to their communication of 28 March.

Signed by 678 academic climate researchers, the March letter called on Sunak to commit in his Net Zero strategy to rule out any new development of offshore oil and gas.

In their July follow-up to Sunak, Shuckburgh and 15 co-signatories including climate economist Lord Stern, and Unilever ex-boss Paul Polman, present themselves as the Friends of CoP26.  Lord Shama, president of the Glasgow international climate summit in 2021, and energy secretary Grant Shapps are copied.

We are disappointed that you have not yet responded to our letter,” the latest letter states.

“With searing heat around the world reminding us of the very real danger posed by climate change”, the 20 July letter goes on, “we are even more disappointed that the Government’s revised Net Zero Strategy did not rule out any new development of onshore and offshore oil and gas fields.

“We call on you again to make a commitment, based on the scientific evidence, not to approve any new development of onshore or offshore oil and gas fields”.

The letter continues:

“The only way that new development of onshore and offshore oil and gas fields by the UK could be consistent with the aim of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C would be if it also persuaded other producers to leave in the ground an equivalent amount of their current reserves, or if carbon capture, utilisation and storage were deployed at a far greater pace and scale than at present to permanently remove the equivalent amount.

“If this is your plan, we would be grateful if you could lay out in a quantified way how you intend to achieve it”.

“It is essential that fairness is at the heart of environmental policies for them to be acceptable and effective, but any relaxation of the overall net zero transition risks a meltdown of our climate.”

Four days after the follow-up Sunak announced “over 100” new licences would be granted this autumn for North Sea oil extraction, with more to follow. Equinor’s giant Rosebank field is expected to be among them.

Nuclear energy minister Andrew Bowie MP was among Conservatives endorsing Sunak’s new enthusiasm for carbon-heavy pollutants as a “maxxing out” Britain’s North Sea assets

Sunak’s support for new drilling followed a series of moves from the government to delay or dilute a number of key climate policies. These cover areas such as carbon pricing, energy efficiency standards for rented properties, and packaging waste.

In controversial comments reported by The Times, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said there was a need to avoid the net zero transition being regarded as a “religious crusade”

“It isn’t a religious crusade – it’s scientific observations and understanding that together paint an extremely worrying picture of the world today,” Shuckburgh told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Infosys, the IT services company founded by Rishi Sunak’s father-in-law signed in May a billion-dollar deal with BP. That was two months before the prime minister opened hundreds of new licences for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea.

The Times of India reported three months ago that Infosys bagged a huge deal from the global energy company, thought to be the second-largest in the history of the firm.

The Indian IT company is owned by the prime minister’s wife’s family although Sunak has insisted the matter is of “no legitimate public interest”.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here