Cross-party MPs urge Sunak to end plans to ‘max out’ North Sea oil and gas

More than 50 cross-party MPs and peers have urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to end the current approach to “max out” North Sea oil and gas.

The members of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on climate wrote to the Prime Minister on Wednesday with a list of demands to enact ahead of the UN Cop16 biodiversity and Cop29 climate summits in October and November.

In the letter on Wednesday, the parliamentarians listed five measures to “accelerate action to cut emissions, protect nature and rebuild the UK’s unique political consensus”.

This included living up to promises made at Cop28 in Dubai to transition away from fossil fuels, and ending the Government’s plans to “max out” North Sea oil and gas.

During the 2023 conference last December, all countries agreed to move away from oil and gas.

However, Mr Sunak has continued to support the licensing of new oil and gas fields in the North Sea after arguing that using every last drop of oil is “absolutely the right thing to do”.

Green MP Caroline Lucas, who signed the letter, 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 oil field 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.”

Another signatory, Labour MP Afzal Khan, said: “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.”

The group of parliamentarians, which also includes former Tory environment minister Zac Goldsmith and Conservative MPs Pauline Latham and Tracey Crouch, called on the Prime Minister to secure UK membership of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance ahead of Cop29.

The alliance – started by Costa Rica and Denmark – aims to elevate the issue of oil and gas production phase-out in international climate dialogues.

Members include France, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Costa Rica and Sweden with Wales as a sub-national government member.

Robbie MacPherson, senior political adviser at Uplift and secretariat lead for the Climate APPG, said: “The UK has a big job on its hands to restore its green credentials on the world stage.

“Joining the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance ahead of Cop29, alongside ending new North Sea oil and gas projects, would send a clear signal that the UK is ready to lead the transition away from fossil fuels, and work with other nations to do so too.”

Mr Sunak is also being urged to support the setting of an ambitious new Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) at Cop29 – a new annual financial target that developed countries must meet from 2025 onward to provide climate finance to developing countries – as well as meet current climate finance commitments.

Finally, the MPs called for the appointment of a Secretary of State-level Climate Envoy before Cop29 and the release of the long-awaited UK National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP).

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.”