The UK Government’s Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has rejected calls to bring an end to new licences for North Sea oil and gas as part of efforts to fight climate change, the UK’s Press Association news agency reported.
The UK Government announced a North Sea transition deal with the offshore oil and gas sector last month to reduce emissions over the next decade.
But the transition deal was criticised by environmental campaigners for not ruling out new licences for oil and gas.
Questioned by the UK’s parliamentary Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee on Tuesday on judging new North Sea oil and gas licensing rounds in the context of climate action, Kwarteng said it did not make sense to end the industry, having secured the deal.
He said: “In the context of having landed a North Sea transition deal just a month ago, it doesn’t make sense to essentially scrap all exploration and end the industry by the stroke of a pen, I was really reluctant to do that.
“I see the North Sea transition, I see the oil and gas sector transitioning to a net zero future, and I’m really believing in that.”
Kwarteng said the North Sea transition deal was the first time a government in the G7 had done a deal with a sector that had been historically responsible for carbon emissions, to try and wean them off emissions, adding he was “very proud of that”.
He told the committee: “But I don’t see a world in which a British government essentially by signing off legislation is going to put an abrupt end to what are really important jobs and very skilled people and a very large industry, I don’t see that.”
He said future licensing rounds would be put in the context of cutting emissions, and that electrification of offshore platforms and developing technology to capture carbon were part of the transition deal.
He also highlighted funding in the UK Budget for the change in direction.
“We want to work with and help the industry, not shut it down,” he said.
Sarah Munby, permanent secretary at the Business Department, added that the UK’s climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, still saw oil and gas playing a role out to 2050, and it was better for that to be domestically produced than imported.