Friends resist petroleum bill

‘Only last month at COP28 in Dubai, the UK committed to transition away from fossil fuels and take urgent action in this “critical decade” to reduce emissions.'

Friends have backed warnings that the government’s oil and gas bill threatens to undermine COP28 commitments.

The call came ahead of debate of the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill in parliament last week, which attracted ‘climate defenders’ to protest the bill outside the House of Commons where MPs were gathering for the bill’s second reading. Campaigners – including some Quakers – came from Fossil Free London, Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion, and Scientists for Extinction Rebellion.

The bill is designed to encourage more licence applications for extracting oil and gas in the North Sea, which the government says will reduce the amount that will be imported.

Critics have said this would not happen, however, as most of the oil is exported.

Quaker Jo Flannagan, co-founder of the Climate Choir Movement and from Cotteridge Meeting, told the Friend: ‘As a Quaker, and resident of our beautiful Planet Earth my heart bleeds for those who are currently on the front line of climate injustice and for those yet to be born who will look back in horror and anger at what UK politicians are doing in pushing through the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill. It shows that politicians are more interested in protecting the oil and gas industry and foreign investors than managing a transition to a cheaper, green, home-grown, sustainable energy system that would help ensure climate justice, safeguard our natural world and protect future generations.’

Sophie Powell, Christian Aid’s chief of UK Advocacy & Policy, said the UK government also risked trashing its record on the environment. ‘Only last month at COP28 in Dubai, the UK committed to transition away from fossil fuels and take urgent action in this “critical decade” to reduce emissions. Now the government seems intent on breaking that carefully constructed international consensus by pressing on with not reducing fossil fuels but expanding them. The science is clear that until we start leaving fossil fuels in the ground, floods, storms, droughts and heatwaves will only continue to worsen.’

The bill has also been criticised by mayors in the north of England who say the bill will worsen climate change, fail to lower household energy bills and not improve energy security. Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said: ‘While the country grapples with the wettest winter in 130 years – with devastating floods causing untold damage – the Earth just witnessed its hottest year ever in 2023, and increasing energy costs are piling pressures on household budgets.

‘New oil and gas licences will not address these issues or take Britain towards energy independence, since what is extracted will predominantly be sold on the international market to the highest bidder.’

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