I share the concerns raised about the use of fossil fuels and tackling climate change is a priority for me.
I welcome the publication of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. This lays the blueprint for how we can achieve net zero and the further publication of the Energy White Paper made clear the Government’s commitment to clean energy sources.
As we transition to clean energy, there will still be some role for fossil fuels in the medium term. However, this is not sustainable in the long term, and I am glad that steps have been taken to speed up the transition, including the commitment to decarbonise the UK's electricity system by 2035. The Energy White Paper set out the Government’s future plans for the oil and gas sector. This includes transforming the UK Continental Shelf, the areas of the sea bed and subsoil beyond the territorial sea over which the UK exercises sovereign rights of exploration and exploitation of natural resources, to be a net zero basin by 2050.
In addition, the North Sea Transition Deal creates new business opportunities, jobs and skills as the oil and gas sector works to transition to clean, green energy. I am encouraged that the Government will provide opportunities for oil and gas companies to repurpose their operations away from unabated fossil fuels to abatement technologies such as Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS), or clean energy production such as hydrogen.
The deal goes further and includes interim targets, such as a 10 per cent reduction in emissions by 2025, 25 per cent by 2027 and 50 per cent by 2030. It also supports up to 40,000 UK supply chain jobs in decarbonising UK Continental Shelf production and the CCUS and hydrogen sectors.
Ultimately, the Government is clear that the licensing of domestic oil and gas exploration and production must continue to be compatible with our climate change ambitions. While the Government has supported the sector through the pandemic, which has protected jobs and livelihoods, there can be no ‘return to normal’ due to the context of the UK’s net zero recovery. I am encouraged that oil and gas companies are already responding positively to this challenge. For example, Shell is investing in CCUS technology which seeks to capture CO2 from a gas plant and transport it by pipeline into depleted oil and gas reservoirs in the North Sea.
However, I recognise the concerns raised regarding the oil and gas exploration at West Newton in Yorkshire. Ministers have announced a new climate compatibility checkpoint as part of the oil and gas licensing scheme. This checkpoint will help ensure that any future licenses are only awarded on the basis that they align with the Government’s climate change ambitions, including the UK’s target of net zero by 2050.
I welcome that the Government has launched a consultation on the checkpoint. To take part in the consultation, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/designing-a-climate-compati…
I also appreciate the concerns raised about the Cambo oil field and I will ensure my Ministerial colleagues are aware. I understand that the original licensing consent for the Cambo oil field dates back to 2001 and the project is going through normal regulatory processes.
The consent application is ongoing, however I recognise that Siccar Point Energy has paused the development at this time. While I ultimately understand that this is a commercial decision to be taken independently by Siccar Point Energy, I know that the UK Government remains committed to the UK's domestic offshore oil and gas sector which continues to strengthen our security of supply while we grow our renewables sector. Without a domestic source of oil and gas, there is no doubt that the UK would be even more reliant on foreign imports.
Moreover, I appreciate concerns about businesses paying their share of tax. Siccar Point Energy is a UK company with assets entirely based in the UK and is therefore subject to the UK's tax system.
I am also aware of the bribery case that was brought against a former executive of Petrofac Ltd. I understand that Petrofac confirmed that it would continue to engage with the Serious Fraud Office while they continue to investigate.
I have been reassured that all Government dealings with the company have been according to normal departmental protocols.
Finally, while the Government has been clear that it is working hard to drive down demand for fossil fuels, there ultimately will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas over the coming years. You will be reassured to know that this has been recognised by the independent Climate Change Committee.