No more Fossil Fuels


*July 2024    [from Skye Climate Action July newsletter]

Landmark Supreme Court judgement on assessing fossil fuel projects

Last month, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that the ‘inevitable’ future climate impact of burning coal, oil and gas must be taken into account when deciding whether to approve fossil fuel projects, not just the emissions at the extraction site. The case was brought by Sarah Finch and Weald Action Group, challenging  Surrey county council’s decision to extend planning permission for an oil drilling well at Horse Hill, on the Weald. 'Planning authorities say that they don't need to consider the climate impacts of the actual burning of the oil - just from the drilling. It's like saying a chocolate cake is low calorie as long as you don't eat it,' said Sarah.
 
The Supreme Court noted that the UK law governing environmental impact assessments did not impose a geographical limit on impacts and there is ‘no justification for limiting the scope of the assessment to effects … at or near the site of the project.’
 
The International Energy Agency said three years ago that no new oil and gas exploration should take place if the world is to limit global heating to 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial temperatures.

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision that the downstream impacts of fossil fuel projects must be adequately considered has implications for lawsuits against the Rosebank and Jackdaw oil and gas fields in the North Sea. It has also given a boost to other domestic lawsuits, including the application to open a new coal mine at Whitehaven in Cumbria, which received government approval in December 2022.
 
The mine’s supporters claimed it would be “climate neutral”.  This point, amongst other claims, including that the coal is needed to replace UK imports (its sulphur content is in fact too high) and that jobs will be created for local residents, will be challenged by South Lakes Action on Climate Change at the Royal Courts of Justice on 16th to 18th July.

Read more about the case here.

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*January 2024

Mixed reactions to COP28

The final outcome text of COP28 has garnered mixed reactions from around the world.

by Freddie Daley and Peter Newell

The final outcome text of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - dubbed the ‘UAE Consensus’ - garnered mixed reactions from around the world, write Freddie Daley and Peter Newell.

Some have lauded COP28 for delivering a historic outcome and ushering in the end of the fossil fuel era, while others have decried the summit as a failure, a dereliction of collective duty or - in the words of John Silk of the low-lying Marshall Islands - a “death warrant”.

Both of these groups are right: the outcome of COP28 is historic in its explicit mention of ‘fossil fuels’ and also woefully insufficient to the scale of the challenge humanity faces.

Borrowed time
Remarkably, this was the first time a COP outcome has explicitly mentioned fossil fuels, the main cause of the climate crisis, with 90 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions coming from their combustion. That fact alone bears testimony to the lost decades in climate action as a result of the denialism and obstructionism of the fossil fuel lobby and their state allies.

The final text may send a strong signal that the global economy must transition away from fossil fuels with “accelerating action in this critical decade”, but it also contains little in new finance for those developing countries that need to transition away from fossil fuels, leaves the door wide open for the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to justify continued extraction of fossil fuels, and contains a raft of loopholes that the fossil fuel industry worked hard to insert.

Indeed, at least 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists attended the summit. This made the fossil fuel industry the biggest delegation after hosts UAE and Brazil, with more passes than all the delegates from the ten most climate vulnerable nations combined.

And as COP reached its crescendo, a leaked OPEC letter tellingly warned that “pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences”, calling on its members to “proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy, i.e fossil fuels, rather than emissions”. Fossil fuels did make the final cut, but a phase-out did not.

The fact that fossil fuel majors feel that we are on the verge of a tipping point with irreversible consequences suggests they know they are living on borrowed time.

But ongoing government subsidies and financial support for their plans for expansion leaves them confident they can ignore the science, which states that no new expansion is compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

'Climate club'
Despite the lengthy final text, much remains unsaid. In particular, how rapidly nations must transition away from fossil fuels, how it can be achieved in a just and equitable manner, and - crucially - how such a transition will be funded and by whom. These questions may have been kicked into the grass by the COP28 leadership in the interest of reaching a timely consensus in Dubai.

Read the rest of the article at The Ecologist.           (copy and paste)

These Authors

Freddie Daley        is a researcher on the SUS POL project on supply-                               side approaches to climate change based at the                                   University of Sussex.

Peter Newell          is professor of international relations and project                                  lead on the SUS POL project at the University of                                  Sussex.

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December 2023

Court challenge to Rosebank oilfield approval

Two separate climate groups are to challenge the legality of the UK Government's decision to approve development of the Rosebank oilfied, eighty miles to the north west of Shetland.

The Herald      18 December 2023   David Bol     Political correspondent

Uplift and Greenpeace UK are seeking to overturn the UK Government’s decision to allow development of Rosebank, the UK’s largest untapped North Sea oilfield.

The campaign groups have both applied to the Court of Session in Edinburgh for a judicial review of the decision by the Energy Secretary, currently Claire Coutinho, and the North Sea Transition Authority, to grant consent to the project.

Read the article
 


Image: Offshore Technology

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December 2023

Forlorn hope?

The objective of phasing out fossil fuels any time soon seems a forlorn hope in the light of this article about the Middle East oil states in  The Ecologist,  which concludes

By appearing to transform themselves into key actors in the fight against a warming climate, the Gulf states obscure their ongoing centrality to a globalised fossil capitalism. This is the real goal behind their leadership in the deliberations at both COP27 and COP28 – it is a means of shaping the world’s response to climate change and of resisting any move away from an oil-centred global order. 
.   .   .   .

A perspective on the climate crisis that ignores the Gulf and the politics of the wider region – concentrating its fire solely on Western governments and the Western oil industry – is not only out of step with the realities of world oil, but inadequate to the enormous challenges at hand.

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November 2023

'Insanity' of continued fossil fuel expansion

The Guardian 8 November 2023 Damian Carrington Environment Editor

The world’s fossil fuel producers are planning expansions that would blow the planet’s carbon budget twice over, a UN report has found. Experts called the plans “insanity” which “throw humanity’s future into question”.

The energy plans of the petrostates contradicted their climate policies and pledges, the report said. The plans would lead to 460% more coal production, 83% more gas, and 29% more oil in 2030 than it was possible to burn if global temperature rise was to be kept to the internationally agreed 1.5C. The plans would also produce 69% more fossil fuels than is compatible with the riskier 2C target.

The countries responsible for the largest carbon emissions from planned fossil fuel production are India (coal), Saudi Arabia (oil) and Russia (coal, oil and gas). The US and Canada are also planning to be major oil producers, as is the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is hosting the crucial UN climate summit COP28, which starts on 30 November.


Full Guardian article

Report summary  PDF

Full report  PDF

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September 2023

UK Government approves Rosebank oilfield

The Uk Government's North Sea Transition Authority last week gave the go-ahead for the development of the Rosebank oilfield 80 miles west of Shetland to Norwegian energy giant Equinor and its UK partner Ithaca. 

The decision produced furious responses and threats of legal action from environmental groups and some politicians, claiming that in addition to significantly increasing carbon emissions, the development would benefit the Norwegian company and state and not UK consumers, as oil from the field would be exported on the world market.

Keir Starmer said that Labour would not revoke the approval if the party won the coming general election.

BBC Scotland report      27 September

The Guardian                27 September'UK go-ahead for North Sea oil and gas field angers environmental groups'

The National                 27 September'Rosebank oil field faces legal battle after UK Government approval'

Friends of the Earth Scotland    27 September'Rosebank approval shows ‘climate denial’ from UK Government'

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September 2023

Ecuadorian referendum rejects oil drilling in Amazon national park

The Ecologist    1 September 2023    Yasmin Dahnoun

Millions of Ecuadorians took part in a nationwide referendum that will keep oil in the ground at the Yasuní National Park in the Amazon rainforest. This was accompanied by a ban on gold mining in the Chocó Andino de Pichincha, a fragile highland biosphere reserve near Quito, the capital city.
.   .   .   .
The ban on oil development in part of the Yasuní Amazon reserve passed with 59 per cent approval. The ban on mining in the Chocó Andino forest near Quito had 68 per cent support. This should result in the closure of 12 oil platforms and about 230 wells that produce approximately 57,000 barrels of oil per day in Yasuní territory, as well as six gold concessions in Chocó Andino.
.   .   .   .

Read the full article

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September 2023

‘A critical moment’: UN warns world will miss climate targets unless fossil fuels phased out

Governments failing to cut emissions fast enough to meet Paris agreement goals and avoid disaster, major report says

The Guardian  8 September 2023   Fiona Harvey  Environment Editor

Governments are failing to cut greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to meet the goals of the Paris agreement and to stave off climate disaster, a major report by the UN has found.

Meeting the goals will require “phasing out all unabated fossil fuels”, the report says, in an acknowledgment that some oil-producing countries may find hard to take.

The need to phase out fossil fuels has not been explicitly adopted by the UN before, under successive rounds of climate talks, and language over “phasing out” or “phasing down” fossil fuels has caused controversy at the annual UN climate talks.

Read the Guardian article    (the link to the draft UN report does not seem to work).

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August 2023

G20 poured more than $1tn into fossil fuel subsidies despite Cop26 pledges 

Public money still flowing into industry despite agreement to phase out ‘inefficient’ subsidies

The Guardian   23 Aug 2023   Ajit Niranjan

The G20 poured record levels of public money into fossil fuels last year despite having promised to reduce some of it, a report has found.

The amount of public money flowing into coal, oil and gas in 20 of the world’s biggest economies reached a record $1.4tn(£1.1tn) in 2022, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) thinktank, even though world leaders agreed to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow two years ago.

Read the full article

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August 2023

In The Ecologist online, editor Brendan Montague highlights the likely potential loss to the UK Government of allowing Norwegian energy giant Equinor to develop the Rosebank oilfield off Shetland.

Sunak's £755mn oil tax giveaway

UK set to make huge tax loss from Rosebank, as Equinor announces billions in profits.

Britain is set to make a loss of more than £755 million if the proposed new Rosebank oil field is approved, according to new analysis by climate group Uplift, writes Brendan Montague.

The analysis comes as Rosebank’s developer, Equinor, posted global profits of over £15 billion in the first six months of this year.

Campaigners have accused the government of selling Britain short over the huge subsidies to new North Sea developments that will do nothing to lower fuel bills or boost UK energy security.


Read the full article

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June 2023

Shetlanders protest against Rosebank

Shetland Times  30 June 2023   Chris Cope

ANOTHER protest against the proposed Rosebank oil development west of Shetland was held in Lerwick on Friday – this time at the town’s Market Cross and Commercial Street.

It comes after a similar protest at the Clickimin earlier this month.

Rosebank is the largest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea region and it has the potential to produce hundreds of million barrels of oil over its lifetime.

The field sits around 130km to the west of Shetland, and Norwegian state-owned energy company Equinor is behind the development. Its final go-ahead rests with the UK Government.

Environmental campaigners say the development should not go ahead and that alternative forms of energy production should be pursued.

But those in favour say oil is needed during the transition to net zero.

Full article, pictures and video

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November 2022

FoES  'Stop Rosebank'  campaign

Prompted by an email from Friends of the Earth Scotland, we recently sent a slightly personalised version of their standard email message to all Highland MSPs.

Text of FoES' campaign email

The UK Government is currently considering approving a huge new oil field in the North Sea, called Rosebank. It would be almost three times the size of the controversial Cambo oil field, which was paused last year because of widespread public and political opposition.

Burning the oil and gas from Rosebank would produce more CO2 than the annual CO2 emissions of the 28 lowest-income countries in the world combined.

Climate science is clear that the window for maintaining a liveable climate is closing. Every new oil field pours more fuel on the fire. We have to come together to make some noise to stop this field.  

The campaign to stop Cambo last year gained cross-party support from many different MSPs. When the Scottish Government finally spoke out against it, it didn’t take long for Shell to pull out of the project.

Although the final decision on Rosebank will be taken by the UK Government, MSPs and the Scottish Government have the power and responsibility to influence this decision by taking a stand against Rosebank - and all new oil and gas in the North Sea.

The Scottish Government has already said that they don’t agree with the UK Government’s plans to expand oil and gas extraction. New oil and gas is not the answer to either the cost of living crisis or the climate crisis. But they are yet to speak out directly against Rosebank.

Text of email provided by FoES for campaign supporters to send to their MSPs. 

MSPs' responses

Our constituency MSP Kate Forbes, and Emma Roddick (SNP), sent similar responses saying that they and the Scottish Government were opposed to further extraction of fossil fuels but pointing out that extraction licensing was a reserved matter and The Scottish Government had no direct involvement in the process, until such time (implied or stated) that Scotland achieved independence.

Ariane Burgess, on behalf of the Scottish Green Party, sent a much more detailed response, with links to statements from the IPCC and the International Energy Agency on the need to end fossil fuel extraction, and to a letter sent  to UK Energy minister Jacob Rees-Mogg by Green MSP Mark Ruskell, protesting in the strongest terms against the possible development of the Rosebank field.

Read Ariane Burgess' response


Jamie Halcro Johnston (Conservative) gave a very different response, decrying what he described as  'knee jerk decisions that will see us import oil and gas from other countries which would lead to increased pollution, but will not create jobs in Scotland'.  Accepting that we need to transition away from non-renewable energy sources, he says that  'we need to do that gradually and sensibly in a way that ensures we protect those jobs and deliver a real future for [Scotland's oil and gas] sector and the North East.'  Implicitly supporting the Development of Rosebank, he suggests that  'The Scottish Government’s obligation should be to bring Scotland in as a full partner in the North Sea Transition Deal'  (a UK Government initiative involving co-operation between various government and industry bodies and support for the development of Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) technology) -  to protect jobs and reduce emissions.

Read Jamie Halcro Johnston's response


It is not known wnen a decision on licensing Rosebank will be made.  It has been suggested (The Guardian 30 October), that the UK Government stands to lose more than £100m, rather than benefit, if drilling at the UK’s largest undeveloped oil field is approved.  This is because of the 'investment rebate' loophole in the windfall tax legislation passed in May this year (2022).

May 2023

Mine victory for Welsh community

'Ecologist' online   Catherine Early 5 May 2023   c Creative Commons

Campaigners in Wales are celebrating the refusal of a coal mine extension - but are in despair that restoration repeatedly promised to them in return for putting up with noise and dust from the open cast coal mine might never happen. 
 

Councillors at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council have voted unanimously to refuse planning permission for the expansion of the Ffos-y-Fran coal mine, a 400ha open cast coal mine 1.5km from the town centre of Merthyr Tydfil. 

The mine contains dry steam coal, which is suited to steel manufacturing rather than power generation, and is mostly sold to the TATA Steel plant at nearby Port Talbot. It was originally granted permission in 2005, but this was amended in 2011 along with a condition that all coal extraction from the development was to cease no later than 6 September 2022, with final restoration of the land to be completed by 6 December 2024. 

However, last year operator Merthyr South Wales applied to extend coaling to March 2024, and to move the restoration deadline to June 2026, which would allow the 240,000 tonnes of coal remaining in the mine to be extracted. 

Read the full article

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December 2022

UK government approves Cumbria coalmine

The UK will build its first new coalmine for three decades at Whitehaven in Cumbria, despite objections locally, across the UK and from around the world.

Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, gave the green light for the project on Wednesday, paving the way for an estimated investment of £165m that will create about 500 new jobs in the region and produce 2.8m tonnes of coking coal a year, largely for steelmaking.

Media comment

'Cumbria coalmine approval shows Sunak does not care whether he is seen as green'The Guardian  7 December 2022  Fiona Harvey, Environment editor

'First UK coal mine in decades approved despite climate concerns'BBC News  7 December 2022  Christina McSorley, Joshua Nevett,  Justin Rowlatt.

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