Billions of pounds and millions of tonnes of CO2: Anger as Rosebank approved

The UK's largest untapped oil field has been approved for development.

Billions of pounds and millions of tonnes of CO2: Anger as Rosebank oil field approved Angela Christofilou

The go-ahead for the UK’s largest untapped oil field has been met with mixed reaction from across the UK after it was approved.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) said consent had been given by the oil and gas regulator to owners Equinor and Ithaca Energy, following the acceptance of the Environmental Statement.

The Rosebank field lies north-west of Shetland and could produce 69,000 barrels of oil per day.

While supporters say it could be worth more than £24bn to the economy, protesters have blasted the danger to the climate that the site could pose.

A cross-party group of MPs and peers previously raised concerns the move could produce “200m tonnes” of carbon dioxide, adding: “This is more than the combined annual CO2 emissions of all 28 low-income countries in the world.”

Following the news, First Minister Humza Yousaf said on Wednesday: “I’m disappointed Rosebank has been given the go-ahead. We’ve raised concerns that the majority of what is extracted from Rosebank will go overseas, not remain in Scotland or the UK. We’re investing £500m so workers and industry transition from fossil fuels to a net zero future.

“We recognise the significant contribution the oil and gas sector makes to Scotland. However, our future is not in unlimited oil & gas extraction. It is in accelerating our just transition to renewables.

“New oil and gas fields being approved risk the pace of that transition.

“In the face of a climate catastrophe, the UK Government have dropped their green pledges & committed to approving 100 new oil and gas licences. That isn’t climate leadership. It is climate denial. Scotland will remain on the right side of history & demonstrate climate leadership.”

The Scottish Green party have been among those to object to the plans, branding them an “utter catastrophe”.

The party’s climate spokesperson, Mark Ruskell MSP said: “This is the worst possible choice at the worst possible time. It shows a total contempt for our environment and for future generations.  

“Last week Rishi Sunak is taking a flamethrower to what remains of the UK’s environmental credibility.  

“In Scottish Climate Week of all weeks, and even as the first major storm of the year bears down upon us today, the Tories have shown a total disregard for our planet and mood of the nation.”

He added: “Climate breakdown is the greatest environmental threat that we will ever face. We have just had a summer of wildfires and environmental chaos and this decision will only make it worse. 

“We urgently need to break the link between fossil fuel prices and household bills, but the Prime Minister is doubling down on it. This is a time when we need a generation-defining push for renewables and a just transition that supports communities and workers.  

“Clean, green and renewable energy is the safest, cheapest and best energy available. Scotland has a huge renewable potential and an abundance of natural resources that any country would envy. Those are the industries we should be supporting, not the ones that are polluting our planet.  

“Rishi Sunak is leaving a long and shameful legacy that will last well beyond his time in Downing Street. There is a responsibility on all parties to stand in firm opposition to this appalling decision. If we want to leave any kind of sustainable future then we badly need to change course. 

“This is a time for real climate action. We must invest in an immediate and just transition away from the dirty fossil fuels that are already doing so much damage and endangering so many lives.”

Concerns have been echoed by former first minister Nicola Sturgeon who said: “By consuming scarce resources that could be going to renewables, it risks slowing the green transition and the jobs that come from it. That’s not in interests of those who work in oil and gas – they need that transition to happen at pace.”

Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon commented: “This is the act of a Tory UK government intent on ecocide.

“If Rosebank goes ahead there will be no meaningful just transition for workers. This shameful decision must be challenged all the way.”

Demonstrations against the decision have been held throughout the summer, with climate campaigner Greta Thunberg joining a rally in July.

Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said: “Hidden in the small print of the deal is that this project can only go ahead thanks to a massive tax break the Government is giving to international oil and gas giant Equinor. 

“Households struggling with their energy bills will be shocked that the new Energy Secretary has chosen to hand a multi-billion pound tax break to this Norwegian firm, rather than help people in the UK suffering in fuel poverty.”

Union GMB, which represents workers in the energy sector, said “domestic supplies” were better than “doubling down on our dependence on imported gas”.

Gary Smith, GMB general secretary, said: “The UK must be honest about where we are going to get the gas we need up to 2050 and beyond. 

“Taking responsibility for more of our own gas supply will support good union jobs, both directly and in the wider supply chain.

“Crucially, it will also unlock investment for the carbon capture and clean power developments we need to confront the climate crisis.

“If the UK is to achieve better energy independence and be in the global race for climate jobs, we need a plan, not bans.”

Others welcomed the announcement including Scottish Conservative shadow net zero, energy and transport secretary Douglas Lumsden MSP, who said: “The decision to approve Rosebank is fantastic news for the UK’s energy security and for jobs in Scotland’s oil and gas sector.

“As we aim to achieve net zero in the coming years, it is only right that we should focus on relying on domestic sources of production, rather than importing oil and gas from volatile sources and from dictators like Vladimir Putin.

“Not only will this be a boost to our economy, it will also help meet our environmental commitments. Expert research shows this will produce millions less in emissions.

“The green light for Rosebank shows again that it is the UK Government who are committed to North East jobs, which is in sharp contrast to the SNP-Green government and Labour wanting to turn the taps off in the North Sea.

“Only last week Humza Yousaf flew to America to tell people in New York not to invest in the sector. Humza Yousaf’s position is reckless.”

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, who said: “Rosebank will make an important contribution to UK and European energy security, create several hundred new jobs here in Scotland and result in over £6bn being spent within the UK supply chain which is anchored in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

“Crucially, while its approval will generate vast economic benefits, it will not increase the UK’s projected emissions.

“Today’s announcement is a welcome shot in arm for the UK energy sector which will give investors, operators and the wider supply chain confidence as they strive to provide the power we need here and now and transition towards a net zero future.” 

The UK Government welcomed the decision, with energy security secretary Claire Coutinho stating: “We are investing on our world-leading renewable energy but, as the independent Climate Change Committee recognise, we will need oil and gas as part of that mix on the path to net zero and so it makes sense to use our own supplies from North Sea fields such as Rosebank.”

She added: “The jobs and billions of pounds this is worth to our economy will enable us to have greater energy independence, making us more secure against tyrants like (Vladimir) Putin.

“We will continue to back the UK’s oil and gas industry to underpin our energy security, grow our economy and help us deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner energy.”

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