COP27 is just around the corner, marking the end of the UK’s COP26 presidency, during which the UK declared themselves “world leaders” on climate change.
Last year’s manifestation of the annual climate conference led to hundreds of countries pledging to tackle fossil fuels, deforestation and methane emissions (known as the Glasgow Climate Pact), to which the UK was party.
For many of us, we’re left despairing over whether the economy and climate will survive this current iteration of Tory non-leadership.
What is Rosebank?
The Tory government is currently hell-bent on approving the biggest undeveloped oil field, Rosebank.
It’s owned by Norwegian oil giant Equinor and may be approved by the end of October 2022. At almost 500 million barrels of oil, Rosebank is almost three times the size of Cambo, Shell’s oil field which climate activists successfully paused last year.
80% of Rosebank’s oil reserves are likely to be exported, while the UK public will carry almost all the financial costs of developing Rosebank, giving over £500 million as a result of the Windfall Tax introduced by the UK government earlier this year.
Fossil fuels will only make our energy system more vulnerable
In reality, approving new oil fields only makes us more dependent on expensive fossil fuels for longer while lining the pockets of rich CEOs.
Approving licences for the further exploration and extraction of fossil fuels is a huge climate and environmental justice issue. Burning more fossil fuels will only serve to push us further past safe climate limits and scientists have been saying for years that we can’t have any more new oil and gas if we want to have liveable futures.
It also goes without saying that the climate impacts of Rosebank and other oil fields will be felt by the most historically marginalised: BIPOC, the working class and those in the Global South.
The CO2 emissions from Rosebank alone would be equal to the annual emissions of the 28 lowest-income countries in the world, including Uganda, Ethiopia and Mozambique and the climate pollution from Rosebank would produce more than 700 million people in the Global South in a year. These are the same countries – and people – who have historically contributed the least to the climate crisis, yet are experiencing some of the worse impacts of our rapidly warming planet.
Since 1750, the UK has contributed hugely to greenhouse emissions due to the Industrial Revolution which was made possible by the colonisation of many Global South countries. The UK extracted and exploited the resources and labour of these countries for centuries, and in doing so, they left these communities both more vulnerable to climate change and less equipped to mitigate its impact.
The UK also continues to contribute to carbon colonialism, by exporting its carbon footprint to countries where it’s cheaper to buy and sell raw materials and exploit labour, resulting in nearly half of the UK’s carbon footprint coming from abroad in 2020.
Black, Asian, other minority ethnic groups and poor people in the UK suffer the worst impacts of climate change as they tend to live in industrial areas with high levels of pollution and few green spaces. This has been routinely linked to issues with childhood development, physical and mental health.
Although many oil and gas companies now claim to make their operations “net zero”, most of them ignore the actual burning of fossil fuels, which contribute 90% of emissions from fossil fuels. The UK government seems to have capitulated to the industry, with its lack of meaningful climate action and active encouragement of new destructive projects.
The only thing missing is political will
The UK must use the wealth that it gained largely as a result of colonialism and the exploitation of BIPOC and working class peoples, to support a fair and rapid transition away from fossil fuels both at home and overseas.
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In the run-up to COP27, there have been increasingly loud calls for loss and damage payments to compensate countries most affected by climate impacts. So far, Scotland is the only UK nation to have committed to such compensation, with Denmark recently becoming the first central government to announce loss and damage payments.
For a safe climate, affordable energy, and a liveable future we must stop expanding oil and gas production and instead rapidly transition to renewable energy, whilst supporting Global South countries in their fight against the climate crisis. We must stop Rosebank.
The solutions are abundantly clear and, most importantly, already available – we need ambitious investments in renewable energy to increase energy security and reduce our reliance on dirty gas from authoritarian regimes.
While new oil and gas fields often take decades to start producing, there is potential to build hundreds of solar and wind projects in less than five years. Community energy is a growing trend and allows localities to move towards self-sufficiency whilst protecting from energy price shocks.
Paired with a mass home insulation rollout, which will serve to significantly reduce energy consumption, the UK could be well placed to become a leader in the shift towards a more sustainable future, but only if our leaders start putting their money where their mouth is.