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Britain approves controversial oil and gas field in the North Sea

The UK government has officially approved the development of one of the biggest oil and gas fields in the North Sea. This will seal the UK’s commitment to continue producing fossil fuels for the next decades.

Rosebank field

Rosebank field is located northwest of Shetland in Scotland and the majority is owned by the Norwegian state-owned energy company Equinor. It is the largest undeveloped oil and gas field in the North Sea. 

The Rosebank field is expected to produce 300 million barrels of oil in its lifetime.


Although it will be very beneficial for the British government, approval of this new fossil fuel project has sparked fierce criticism for the impact that it will have on the climate and nature. 

The oil and gas field will also have a huge impact on the UK’s ability to meet its pledge to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas said that “giving the green light to this huge new oil field is morally obscene. This government must be held accountable.”

Ambitious plans

In a statement, a spokesperson for the oil and gas regulations of the North Sea Transition announced: “We have today approved the Rosebank Field Development Plan which allows the owners to proceed with their project.”

“The FDP is awarded in accordance with our published guidance and taking net zero considerations into account throughout the project’s life cycle.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently said he wants to “max out” oil and gas developments in the North Sea and issue hundreds of new licenses. Mr. Sunak argues that these reserves will give the UK energy security and help lower bills.

“Even when we’ve reached net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will come from oil and gas. But there are those who would rather that it come from hostile states than from supplies we have here at home.” said Sunak.

Climate activists respond

The development plans have caused a series of reactions from climate activists, as critics argue that the UK already exports 80 percent of its oil abroad.

Climate groups say that continuing to produce new fossil fuels decades into the future threatens the UK’s climate commitments.

Sunak has tried to defend his frequent use of a jet or helicopter to attend events around the UK, which is a habit that opposition politicians have often criticized.

In an attempt to bring positivity towards the new expansion, Claire Coutinho, the UK’s minister for energy security and net zero, stated that Rosebank will bring new jobs and enable the UK to reduce reliance on oil and gas imports.

“We are a world leader at reducing carbon emissions but as much as we will be ambitious, we must be pragmatic,” Coutinho said on Twitter. 

Delayed climate commitments

Rosebank is twice the size of the Cambo oil field, both which are in the North Sea. Cambo was on course to be developed until Shell pulled out of the project in 2021, citing economic reasons.

Uplift Climate, a big environmental organization, has said that it will launch legal action against the UK government to challenge the Rosebank decision.

The approval comes just a week after Sunak announced a delay of key climate commitments, including pushing back a ban on the sale of gasoline and diesel-powered cars and slowing plans to reduce gas boilers. 

Climate experts say those decisions will also make it much harder for the UK to meet its net zero commitments.

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