A new report, commissioned by environmental campaign group Uplift, has found that continued exploration in the North Sea region is at odds with the UK’s climate targets and the Paris Agreement.

The paper, authored by a team of scientists at University College London (UCL) and research fellow Daniel Welsby, said that oil and gas production in the North Sea must instead decline by 7% every year if the UK is to have a 50% chance of limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C. Based on the UCL researchers’ findings, this would mean leaving around 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) of oil and 6 billion boe of gas in the ground.

The researchers instead call for a moratorium on new oil and gas fields, and for the acceleration of emissions-saving technologies such as carbon capture and storage. Figures from the UCL team estimate that 38 million tonnes of CO2 must be captured and stored every year by 2030 – increasing to 57 million tonnes in 2050 – if climate targets are to be met.

In addition, the authors said that the UK Government’s plan to test future licensing rounds for projects against “climate compatibility checkpoints” was flawed, as the checkpoints would only take national production and climate targets into account, rather than global parameters.

According to the UCL team, the checkpoint would “need to explicitly identify which projects elsewhere in the world would not produce, in order to truly align new fossil fuel production in the UK with global climate targets”.

They added: “This places a high burden of proof that would have to be met prior to giving new UK projects the green light.”

The news comes as the UK Government is reportedly looking to fast-track new oil and gas fields in the North Sea as the nation faces an escalating energy crisis. Earlier this month The Daily Telegraph named six fields including Rosebank, Jackdaw, and Marigold as sites for potential acceleration.

Rising energy prices have divided people on whether to invest in more hydrocarbons in order to meet demand, or to accelerate deployment of emission-reducing technologies. A verdict from the Committee on Climate Change on whether new North Sea licences are compatible with the UK’s carbon budget is set to be announced in the coming weeks.