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    UK opposition urges "hard-edged" end date for oil and gas exploration


The UK government faces criticism for lacking bolder climate goals on one hand, and not being honest with the electorate about the cost of the energy transition on the other.

by: Joseph Murphy

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UK opposition urges "hard-edged" end date for oil and gas exploration

The UK Labour opposition party urged the government on August 4 to set a "hard-edged" timetable for phasing out North Sea oil and gas exploration, while stressing that the jobs of workers affected by the energy transition must be protected.

"We absolutely have to protect people's jobs," Labour leader Keir Starmer was quoted as saying by reporters at The Guardian and other local newspapers. "We've got to try to create a timetable for [ending exploration]. It's got to be subject to consensus and agreement, and we have got to bring communities with us. Otherwise there'll be a disconnect between the obligations that we've got to fulfil in order to deal with the climate crisis and the communities that are going to be most deeply affected."

Addressing journalists alongside Scottish Labour head Anas Sarwar in Glasgow, Starmer refused to say when oil and gas exploration should be ceased. "We'll have to sit down and agree but we've got to have a hard-edged timetable," he said.

Labour unveiled a £30bn ($42bn) green plan earlier this year, aimed at creating 400,000 new green jobs through investment in low-carbon development. The UK Conservative government is under pressure to set even bolder climate goals ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November. It is already striving to cut the country's emissions by 78% by 2035, which prime minister Boris Johnson described as the most ambitious plan in the world.  But while it has ordered reforms to the country's oil and gas licensing process to increase the focus on emissions, it has not suggested an end date for exploration.

The Scottish Conservatives responded to Starmer's words saying such a policy would jeopardise some 100,000 jobs in Aberdeen and the North East, describing the oil industry as "vital." While other North Sea producers like Denmark have already largely ended exploration, the UK is more closely following the example of Norway, which has said it expects licensing to continue for years to come. However the UK licensing regime will be tougher in the future as carbon is factored in.

The UK government has also faced criticism over the projected cost of its transition plans, with respected Oxford University economist Dieter Helm telling a parliamentary committee in July that Whitehall was not being honest with the UK electorate about this cost.