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Rhetoric and Reality

June 8, 2022 4:50 PM
By Roy Wood
Offshore oil rig with gas flare

Offshore oil rig, image by Kristina Kasputienė from Pixabay


"Humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change, it's one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now." Boris Johnson, COP21


Rishi Sunak announced a 91% tax break alongside a windfall taxon the huge profits of oil and gas companies last week which will hand between £2.5bn and £5.7bn back to the oil companies over three years.

The government announced it had given the Jackdaw field, to be developed by the oil multinational Shell, final regulatory approval on Wednesday - just before the bank holidays.


Plans for the gas field were initially rejected in October last year on environmental grounds.

The gas field has reserves of between 120 million and 250 million barrels of oil equivalent, about 6.5% of our gas usage. Shell plans to start production in the second half of 2025.

The average household gas boiler emits 2.2 tonnes of CO2 each year, the equivalent of leaving a 10-watt lightbulb on permanently for 139 years.

Billions of pounds given away in this tax break for UK oil and gas exploitation could have permanently cut the energy bills of many millions of homes by up to £500 a year if invested in insulation measures.

The tax reduction meets official definitions of a fossil fuel subsidy, which the UK and other countries had pledged to phase out. It incentivises new oil and gas production, the fossil fuel industry is already planning projects that would blow the world's chances of maintaining a liveable climate.

The tax break has been criticised by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. "It means a massively loss-making investment could still be profitable after tax. It is hard to see why the government should provide such huge tax subsidies and thereby incentivise even economically unviable projects."

According to a recent scientific study, nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites need to be shut down early if global heating is to be limited to 1.5C, the internationally agreed goal for avoiding climate catastrophe. This goes beyond the call by the International Energy Agency in 2021 to stop all new oil, gas and coal developments, a statement seen as radical at the time.

A Better Way

Liberal Democrats propose an emergency programme of action to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by more than half by 2030 - minimising the UK's impacts on the climate as fast as possible. We also have a comprehensive plan to decarbonise every sector of the economy and get to net zero by 2045 at the latest.