The UK’s Labour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer has announced plans to end UK domestic drilling in the North Sea if he is elected as prime minister in the country’s next general election due in 2025.
A formal announcement of the party’s energy policy is due for next month when more detail on the issue of North Sea drilling is expected.
Speaking on UK Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth spoke on the policy. He told industries that Labour wants to “invest in the green jobs of the future to bring bills down and to create a more sustainable energy supply”.
“We know we’ve got to move to more renewable energy sources,” he went on. “It’s important for our climate change commitments, but it’s also the way in which we can bring energy bills down for consumers.”
Ashworth was challenged on whether the policy would increase the UK’s dependence on oil and gas from other countries. A criticism also levelled at the policy by oil industry leaders.
“Accelerating the decline of the North Sea simply means importing energy, particularly gas, from other countries. If the alternative is importing, at a greater carbon cost, then surely the UK should always favour domestic production, where we can control the regulatory environment,” Ryan Crighton, the policy director of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, told The Times.
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Offshore Energies UK chief executive Dave Whitehouse told The Telegraph that the UK currently imports “more than 50%” of its oil and gas”.
He says: “That means our energy security is undermined and jobs across the country are undermined if we have no further investment.”
“Deep concern” from the oil and gas industry
Whitehouse said that the industry is “deeply concerned”.
She comments: “The 200,000 workers in this industry, the 90,000 workers that we have here in Scotland, have powered the UK for the last 50 years. They have the critical skills we need going forward.”
However, Ashworth maintained that the policy will create new jobs and opportunities for re-skilling in line with the energy transition and the future of the UK’s energy industry.
Drilling in the North Sea is expected to become a key point of debate in the UK’s next general election as the Conservative party, which is currently in power, supports continued drilling.
Businesses in the north-east of Scotland, the centre of the North Sea drilling industry, have called for a more gradual transition away from hydrocarbons in the UK.
Environmentalists have supported the move, with Greenpeace UK tweeting: “This is the kind of leadership the climate needs to see more of”. The organisation celebrated the decision, which it says is in line with recommendations from the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This is HUGE.— Greenpeace UK (@GreenpeaceUK) May 29, 2023
In line with what the @IEA and @IPCC_CH recommend, Labour have committed to block ALL new oil and gas in the North Sea.
This is the kind of leadership the climate needs to see more of. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/LiR3FVgWi7