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North Sea oil and gas development at odds with UK and global climate goals


New oil and gas development in the North Sea could produce up to 984 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent and contribute to the UK exceeding its carbon budget for 2023 to 2037 by a factor of two, according to a report by Global Energy Monitor (GEM).



The report analyses the potential production from the 21 largest undeveloped fields in the North Sea and finds that development of all or any of these fields would be incompatible with the UK’s and global climate goals to limit warming to 1.5C.


Key findings:

  • Of the 21 largest new fields being leased for development, production in most cases would not begin until 2025, and in some cases would extend into the 2050s.

  • The government’s Climate Compatibility Checkpoint system – ostensibly designed to align oil and gas development with net zero goals – is in fact meaningless and does not account for the climate risks of further North Sea oil and gas development.

  • Development of North Sea fields would not reduce energy prices for UK consumers during the immediate energy crisis in Europe – or in the long term, either.

  • The development of further fields could lead to more than three times as much oil and gas being extracted than what is currently in reserves already in development. The combustion of all of these reserves would yield significantly more carbon dioxide than is compatible with the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets for 2023–2037.

  • Official government projections and industry pathways show more oil and gas being produced than would be compatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C. The mature region’s declining production rate exceeds the UK’s fair share pathway, even without any new fields starting up.

  • While environmentalists have organised to stop development of the Cambo Field, with projected lifetime emissions of 95 megatonnes of CO2, the number and remote location of these fields make them harder to stop than on-land oil and gas projects.


‘The energy crisis in Europe is a chance for the UK to kick its fossil fuel dependency,’ said Scott Zimmerman, researcher for GEM. ‘But by leasing these new fields the UK is showing it is still hooked on hydrocarbons.’


To see the report, click here



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