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Calls for ‘reasoned debate’ on future of North Sea

Maersk oil field

Statements are ‘impacting investor confidence’

Business leaders have urged politicians to think carefully before calling for an end to oil and gas drilling which has shaken investor confidence and placed tens of thousands of jobs at risk.

In a joint open letter to political party leaders, Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce,  The British Chambers of Commerce and Scottish Chambers of Commerce have called for a “more reasoned debate” around the future role of oil and gas in Britain’s energy mix.

The move has been backed by industry body Oil and Gas UK and follows remarks by politicians and campaigners calling for an end to oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

It also comes after Shell and Siccar Point, who jointly planned to develop the Cambo field west of Shetland, pulled out of the project.

The letter says: “Statements calling for an end to new exploration and production have shaken investor confidence and placed tens of thousands of jobs – together with the economic wellbeing of whole communities across the UK – at risk.

“They also threaten the very basis of a fair and inclusive transition at the most crucial point in our collective journey to a net-zero society.

“A transition, by definition, is a change of state over time. This is one of the most complex challenges we have faced in our history and it doesn’t lend itself to a simple, ‘Who’s good, who’s bad? Who’s green, who’s not?’ approach. To characterise it in this way is overly simplistic.

“We must now pause and allow for a reasoned debate about our energy future to take place.

“At the same time, we urge politicians to reflect carefully on their public statements on oil and gas and the impact they have on investment in the industry. We must not create an adverse policy environment at this crucial moment in our energy transition journey.”

The letter, which is also been signed by 58 leading figures from business and civic life in Aberdeen, highlights energy security concerns and the additional carbon footprint that importing more energy from abroad would bring.

It adds: “By 2050, the International Energy Agency projects that global oil and gas demand will fall by 80%, but even then 20million barrels per day will be required to meet our needs. 

“Therefore, there is no current future scenario where there is not a requirement for some oil and gas. Meantime, it continues to be required for people to travel, heat and power their homes and for the manufacture of many everyday goods.

“This leaves us with two options; to produce this domestically, with full control over the regulatory environment in which it is extracted; or to import an increasing amount of our energy, with the heavier carbon toll that shipping it from other parts of the world carries.

“The latter makes little economic sense, and even less environmental sense.”

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is a large cross-section of British business – companies and groups which collectively employ more than six million people – speaking as one to send a clear message to our political leaders that it is time for an honest and frank debate about the role that oil and gas plays, and will continue to play, in our society. 

“We have a shared interest in getting to net zero as quickly as possible, but over recent months our region has been portrayed as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

“The reality is that the skills, people, and experience embedded in the north-east of Scotland have quietly been leading the way in moving the UK towards its net-zero targets, without any intervention from COP26.”

Deirdre Michie, chief executive of OGUK, which represents the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry, said:  “Businesses are joining the public in supporting our calls for a planned and fair transition towards our climate goals.    

“Right now, we need oil and gas for 73% of our total energy, and so the transition to carbon neutrality will be a huge and complex task.  

“We will only be able to achieve it with careful planning by policy-makers who think long-term to develop clear government policies that are then supported by all politicians working together in the national interest. “

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