Some 80,000 have made the Prime Minister aware of plans for a new oil field near Shetland – in the guise of an objection letter.
If approved by the Oil and Gas Authority, part of the UK Government, the Cambo oil field could produce up to 255 million barrels of oil over its lifetime – but an Oxfam study says it would release an estimated 132 million tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
Now over 80,000 signatures have been handed into 10 Downing Street in opposition to plans from oil giant, Shell and private equity firm, Siccar Point Energy to start drilling next year.
The petition states: “The climate impacts of this project would be devastating. The companies want to start by drilling for over 150 million barrels of oil – equivalent to the annual pollution from 16 polluting coal-fired power stations.
“We can’t allow Boris Johnson to approve this development just before the UN climate talks in Glasgow.”
Environmental groups were infuriated after Mr Johnson said in an interview on Wednesday that he was “not aware” of the Cambo plan.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has said said the Cambo oilfield should not get the go-ahead and called for a “hard-edged” timetable to end oil and gas extraction.
Friends of the Earth Scotland say the plans for Cambo “clearly contradict” the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) advice that there should be no new fossil fuel development.
It said that this is so that we can try and avoid the catastrophic 1.5°C rise in global temperature.
The group said that the development will also “run roughshod” over the UK’s commitments to meeting its climate targets.
“There’s already enough oil and gas in existing sites to cause the UK to exceed its share of emissions under the Paris Agreement goals,” the environmental campaigners said.
The Scottish Government, which has a 2045 net zero aim, has devoted a large chunk of its strategy to cut emissions to carbon capture technology.
But it has so far not categorically opposed the plans.
November’s COP26 summit in Glasgow will see representatives from across the world gathering to try to reach agreements on how to reduce emissions.
The UK government has promised to take the lead role in what is seen by many as our last, best chance to prevent global temperatures from spiralling out of control.
But environmental groups have accused ministers of “hypocrisy” after it emerged that the development of the vast Cambo oil field could get the green light.
Yhe Cambo oil field is placed 75 miles to the west of the Shetland Islands in water depths of between 1,050m to 1,100m and it contains over 800 million barrels of oil.
If approved by the Oil and Gas Authority, drilling at Cambo could start as early as 2022. And the field is expected to produce oil and gas for approximately 25 years.
The company behind the Cambo proposal, Siccar Point Energy, backed by private equity firm investors, sees this as an opportunity to create more than 1,000 jobs and even more in the supply chain.
In addition to the 80,000-strong letter being handed in to Downing Street this morning, an open letter signed by 77 organisations has this week been sent to Boris Johnson, similarly calling on him to reject Shell’s Cambo proposal.
Signatories include Save the Children, RSPB, Oxfam, 350, Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance, Avaaz and Uplift.
The letter says: “As the host of COP26, it is vital for the UK’s international leadership credentials on climate change for it to walk the walk on all aspects of domestic energy policy. The Government has succeeded in mobilising the G7 behind the 1.5C target, which we strongly support.
“However, approving the Cambo Field will threaten this progress and stall our efforts at climate diplomacy at the exact moment we need them to accelerate. It will be hard to avoid the irony of world leaders meeting in Glasgow to discuss how to achieve a 1.5 degree world, while the UK Government contemplates a new oil field just over 300 miles to the north.”
Boris Johnson’s comments on Cambo came while asked if it was still the policy of the UK Government to squeeze every last drop of value out of the North Sea and the fossil fuels that still lie there.
He said: “I think we have to recognise the value of hydrocarbons but we have to realise that it’s going to change and what we may need to do now is to think of ways of of releasing the hydrogen from hydrocarbons and make sure we find ways of producing clean energy from the wealth in North Sea. That, I think, is the future.”
He was then asked by the BBC if the government was minded to approve the development of a new oilfield west of Shetland.
He said: “I can’t comment on that we want to move away from… I’m not aware of that particular decision I should say.
“That particular decision has not been brought to me. What I can tell you is that there are already a long periods, two weeks or more when this whole country runs on clean power, and that’s what I want.
“And by 2030 we can ensure that every home in this country is powered by by wind alone.”
Asked how the new oil and gas field in the North Sea is that compatible with the government’s climate ambitions, Mr Johnson added: “I haven’t seen this proposal I, I don’t know exactly what you’re talking about…”
He added: “My vast preference is to use our incredible power to generate clean electricity, and we can do it.”
Caroline Rance, Friends of the Earth Scotland climate & energy campaigner said: “Boris Johnson doesn’t sound like a climate leader on top of his brief. With less than 100 days to go to COP, how does he not know what is going on in the North Sea and the fact that his government is poised to approve this huge oil field? If the Oil and Gas Authority is going rogue and just nodding these massive projects through, then the Prime Minister has to personally get a grip on energy policy and put a stop to these developments.
“The government should be supporting and re-training oil and gas workers to transition to jobs in sectors such as renewable energy or decommissioning oil platforms. A managed phase-out away from oil and gas is necessary to create the long-term protection for people who currently work in this industry, their communities and the climate.”
In its first phase, the Cambo project expects to extract 150-170 million barrels — the burning of which would create emissions equivalent to operating 16-18 coal-fired power stations for a year.
If approved, the Cambo extension would be producing oil and gas until 2050 if it begins operations from 2025, as developers hope.
The petition now lodged withe Prime Minister says that Shell and Siccar Point want to keep on drilling until 2050 – well beyond when the UK must stop burning fossil fuels.
It says that governments should be winding down production of oil and gas and ensuring a “just” transition for oil and gas workers and impacted communities.