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Leading climate scientist demands government rejects new oil field

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Cambo field has potential to extract 800 million barrels of oil

One of the world’s foremost experts on climate change is calling on the government to “resolutely reject” proposals by Shell to develop a significant new oil field in the North Sea, 125 miles north of Shetland.

Dr James Hansen is opposing the development alongside groups representing young people, parents and activists across the UK.

Responding to the government consultation into the environmental impact of the Cambo oil field proposal, 14 environmental organisations point to the failure by Shell and its partner in the project, Siccar Point Energy, to account for the impact on the climate from burning the oil and gas extracted from the Cambo Field in their environmental statement.

The regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority, part of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, must now decide whether to approve or reject the plans, which come just months before the UK is due to host the crucial UN climate conference in Glasgow.

The Cambo heavy crude field off the coast of the Shetland Islands contains over 800 million barrels of oil. In its first phase, the project expects to extract 150-170 million of these — the burning of which would create emissions equivalent to operating 16-18 coal-fired power stations for a year. If approved, Cambo would be producing oil and gas until 2050. It is 70% owned by private equity firm, Siccar Point Energy, and 30% by Shell. The oil giant was ordered by a Dutch court in May to reduce its total global emissions by 45% by 2030.

The International Energy Agency recently said that no new oil and gas fields should be developed, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5C.  But both the UK and Scottish Government’s official policy is to maximise recovery of oil and gas – despite being in direct contradiction to their efforts to reduce fossil fuel use.

Hansen said:  “The U.K. government simply cannot aspire to international leadership on climate if its Ministers blithely press forward on major fossil fuel projects. We are already well above the safe level of global atmospheric CO2 – witness the near-overtopping of numerous atoll-island nations and the recent heatwaves and fires in Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, California, and Australia.

“This implies that the major emitting nations need to get their act together, without further delay, to ensure that all fossil fuels within their reach bear their true cost to society, including their imposition on future generations and the environment. Indeed, we are demanding the same in the U.S.”

Ryan Morrison, Friends of the Earth Scotland Just Transition Campaigner, added: “The UK Government should be sitting down with people and communities who work in oil and gas to develop a plan of how we can rapidly transition away from these industries in a way that is fair and brings their skills and experience to renewables and decommissioning.

“With the right policy and investment, three times as many green jobs can be created than currently exist in these polluting fossil fuel industries. Instead we see the Government in lockstep with big polluters to keep on drilling and delaying the necessary transition away from oil and gas.”



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