MPs and peers urge Sunak to U-turn on oil and gas extraction plans

A cross-party group of MPs and peers has urged Rishi Sunak to make a U-turn on his oil and gas extraction plans as part of a broader plea to increase efforts to address the climate crisis.

The 50 politicians, including three Conservatives, wrote to the prime minister calling for the UK to regain its international leadership on the crisis by ending the licensing of new oil and gas fields, appointing a climate envoy, and backing the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance.

All countries agreed to “transition away from fossil fuels” at the Cop28 UN climate summit last December, but without a firm timetable for their phase-out. Despite this pledge, however, Sunak has gone ahead with licensing new oil and gas fields in the North Sea.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP, who signed the letter from the all party parliamentary group on climate change, said: “When the prime minister entered Downing Street he promised to protect the environment. But instead he has U-turned on once-leading climate policies, approved the largest undeveloped oilfield in the North Sea, and weaponised green policies.

“If the government is to secure any success at future critical international negotiations, then the prime minister must heed the demands of cross-party parliamentarians.”

Current members of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, which pledge to phase out fossil fuel production, include France, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Costa Rica and Sweden. Wales is also a member, as sub-national governments can join.

However, some members have been accused of failing to put adequate plans in place to stop production: for instance, Denmark allows licensing in limited circumstances, and its end date for production is 2050.

The government has also dropped the role of climate envoy, usually filled by either a civil servant or senior politician, who spearheads the UK’s international climate policy.

Many countries have an envoy, with John Kerry, for example, serving in the role for the US under Joe Biden until earlier this year. The letter’s signatories call for the role to be reinstated in the UK, and elevated to parity with a secretary of state.

Robbie MacPherson, a senior political adviser at the Uplift campaign group, said: “At a time of huge global instability and political uncertainty, there is also an imperative for the UK to have its own special prime ministerial envoy for climate.

“The government must have consistent representation and never be left without a high-level political presence at global summits.”

The three Tories to have signed the letter are Zac Goldsmith, the former MP and mayoral candidate elevated to the peerage under Boris Johnson, and who has been critical of Sunak since being sacked as a minister last year; Tracey Crouch, a former sports minister; and Pauline Latham, the MP for Mid Derbyshire. Neither of the MPs will stand at the next general election.

Other signatories include Labour’s Clive Lewis, Alex Sobel and Rosie Duffield, Richard Foord of the Liberal Democrats, and Deirdre Brock of the Scottish National party.

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The letter called for Sunak to support the setting of a new global goal for climate finance at the Cop29 summit this November in Azerbaijan. It would aim to help developing countries cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of extreme weather.

The signatories also want a UK biodiversity strategy and action plan, as part of international efforts to conserve species across the planet.

Afzal Khan, the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, said: “MPs across the political spectrum, in both the House of Commons and Lords, want the government to do more to uphold the UK’s reputation as a global climate leader.

“Instead of chasing after the last drop of North Sea oil, and retreating from responsibility, the prime minister must honour our domestic and global climate goals to send a clear message to world leaders this year.”

A Government spokesperson said: “The UK leads the world in net zero, having halved emissions before any other major economy and set into law one of the most ambitious emissions targets in the world. Tackling climate change, however, is a global challenge, and with the UK accounting for less than 1% of annual worldwide emissions we need to work with other countries in tackling this vital issue head on.

“At COP28, we were pivotal in delivering an agreement to transition away from fossil fuels and are committed to continued collaboration with all international partners in tackling emissions.”


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