North Sea verdict

Starmer opposes new oil and gas investment

Sir Keir Starmer iin Edinburgh
Sir Keir Starmer: there needs to be a transition (pic: Terry Murden)

Sir Keir Starmer has said there will be no investment in new oil and gas fields in Britain under a Labour government, prompting a furious reaction from the sector in Scotland.

The Labour leader told a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos that his party wanted to find a new role for oil and gas in the energy transition.

“What we’ve said about oil and gas is that there does need to be a transition,” he said. “Obviously it will play its part during that transition but not new investment, not new fields up in the North Sea, because we need to go towards net zero, we need to ensure that renewable energy is where we go next.”

In a tweet, he said: “The Labour Party will attract global investors to drive our economy forwards. We will decarbonise the economy, create good jobs, boost energy security and make the UK a world leader in the climate transition.

“Brilliant to be in Davos with Rachel Reeves MP to set out our plan.”

His comments came just days after the Tory government opened bidding for a new licensing round for oil and gas exploration which is facing a potential legal challenge from climate campaigners.

Industry body Offshore Energies UK said policymakers should choose their words carefully and pointed out that many of its 400 members are leading the UK’s transition to greener energy systems.

Jenny Stanning, OEUK’s external relations director, said: “Keir Starmer’s suggestion today, at Davos, that there should be no further investment in North Sea oil and gas will be deeply upsetting to the many workers and communities dedicated to providing the UK with energy. It will also further damage investor confidence.

“Those communities, whether in the northeast of Scotland, or England’s energy coast, from Norfolk to the Scottish borders, have been central to the UK’s energy security for five decades – and especially in the last year’s energy crisis.

“We all know that the UK must transition to low carbon energies as fast as possible. Our industry has pledged to work with the UK’s governments to reach net zero by 2050. But, in the three decades till then we will need gas and oil.

“The companies providing those fuels are the same companies that are investing in the (energy) transition.”

A new survey shows that 87% of the Scottish public think the UK should aim to meet its demand for oil and gas from domestic production.

The findings, which form part of the first comprehensive public polling exercise to be conducted on a Scotland-wide basis in 2023, also reveal that energy companies operating in the North Sea are seen to have a positive impact on the UK economy by a factor of five to one.

The research by advisory firm True North was previewed at a special event at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, with analysis from Prof Sir John Curtice. 

The poll shows overwhelmingly that the energy profits levy, or windfall tax, is viewed as an ineffective measure in reducing household energy bills or encouraging energy companies from diversifying away from fossil fuels into renewables.

Professor Curtice said:  “Despite the current debate about climate change, most people in Scotland think that the energy industry in Scotland has had a positive impact on the UK and Scottish economies, and that, for so long as the UK continues to need oil and gas supplies, they are best sourced from within the UK rather than via imports.

“Indeed, this is one topic on which both nationalist and unionist supporters largely agree.”



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