The UK government has granted approval for the development of a massive oil and gas field in the North Sea, signaling its commitment to continued fossil fuel production for decades to come. The Rosebank field, located off the coast of Scotland, is the largest undeveloped oil and gas reserve in the North Sea, with the potential to yield 500 million barrels of oil. This decision has sparked significant criticism due to concerns about its impact on the climate crisis and the UK’s ability to achieve its pledge of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The North Sea Transition Authority, the oil and gas regulatory body, issued a statement confirming the approval of the Rosebank Field Development Plan. They emphasized that the decision had been made while considering net-zero considerations throughout the project’s lifecycle. Achieving net zero involves removing as much planet-warming pollution as is emitted.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed a desire to maximize oil and gas developments in the North Sea and issue numerous new licenses. Sunak argues that these reserves will enhance the UK’s energy security and help reduce energy bills. Critics, however, contend that the UK exports 80% of its oil, and the Rosebank development will not lower fuel costs or enhance energy security. Instead, they believe most of the oil will be exported and sold back to the UK at prices that maximize industry profits.
Climate activists and environmental groups assert that continuing to produce new fossil fuels for decades will jeopardize the UK’s climate commitments. The International Energy Agency warned in 2021 that no new oil and gas fields should be developed if the world aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Uplift, a UK campaigning organization, conducted an analysis showing that Rosebank’s carbon emissions would push the UK beyond its climate targets from 2028 onwards. Despite these concerns, Claire Coutinho, the UK’s minister for energy security and net zero, defended the project, claiming it would create jobs and reduce reliance on oil and gas imports.
Notably, the approval of Rosebank follows the recent announcement by Sunak to delay key climate commitments, including postponing the ban on the sale of gasoline and diesel-powered cars and slowing down plans to phase out gas boilers. Climate experts argue that these decisions will make it significantly harder for the UK to fulfill its net-zero commitments. Uplift has declared its intention to take legal action against the government to challenge the Rosebank decision.