Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
2nd reading
Monday 22nd January 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill 2023-24 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Just last month, COP28 made history by acknowledging for the first time the need to transition away from fossil fuels. It should not have taken 28 COPs to accept what scientists have known for decades. Despite all the vested interests at play, the efforts of hundreds of lobbyists, and the huge sums poured into preventing climate action, the truth became impossible to ignore. The effects of climate chaos are now in plain sight: 10 of the hottest years on record, as mentioned previously in this debate, all happened in the past decade, and the speed of change is only increasing. To avert catastrophe, we must work now towards a fossil-free future.

Why do our Government insist on keeping us in the past and trying to build our recovery on a resource that the world has formally committed to moving away from? The Government claim that it is about lowering household bills, but even the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero has admitted that it will not do that. The energy generated from new oil and gas would not belong to the British people, powering our homes for cheap, it would be in the hands of private companies and sold on the global market for internationally set prices. It would be owned by those same energy companies that have already made record-breaking profits in the cost of living crisis, while 13 million households sat in the cold last winter, too scared to turn on the heating.

Madam Deputy Speaker, those corporations do not need any more state handouts. If the Government really cared about energy bills, they would be funding a mass programme of insulating homes, which the Tories slashed support for in 2013. If they cared about securing our future, they would be focusing on investing in publicly owned home-grown renewables, which have never been cheaper. They would be delivering a green new deal to protect our living standards and our planet for decades to come. Therefore, if not to lower our bills now, to ensure energy security in the future, and to enable a green transition, why are the Government pushing through this dangerous and unpopular Bill? Is it just to annoy environmentalists and turn climate policies into a wedge issue? Or could it have anything to do with the fact that the Conservatives have taken £3.5 million in a year from big polluters, climate deniers and fossil fuel interests?

Madam Deputy Speaker, when justifying this act of climate vandalism, the Government like to reference the Climate Change Committee. Unfortunately, though, they have misrepresented the advice of that Committee to the point that its chair, Piers Forster, has been forced to speak out. In response to the Government’s false claims, he said:

“UK oil and gas consumption needs to fall by over 80% to meet UK targets. This and the COP… decision…makes further licensing inconsistent with climate goals.”

It is not only embarrassing, but deeply concerning that, on an issue as important as the future of our planet, the Government are either unable or unwilling to understand expert advice. It is not just the Climate Change Committee that has warned against new fossil fuels, so, too, has the UN Secretary-General. [Interruption.] Conservative Members would do well to listen to this. He called on all nations to

“cease all licensing or funding of new oil and gas.”

In addition, the International Institute for Sustainable Development has said that “no new oil and gas development is possible if the world is to stay within the Paris agreement temperature limit.”

The director of the International Energy Agency said:

“If Governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investment in oil, gas and coal”.

Moreover, more than 700 scientists wrote to the Prime Minister last year, asking him to halt the licensing.

Should we be taking advice from hundreds of leading climate experts or from lobbyists for fossil fuel industries? The Bill in front of us will not solve any of our problems. It will just contribute to wrecking the planet and undermine our climate creditability on the international stage. For the sake of our futures and our planet, I urge the House to vote down this dangerous Bill.