Politicians, campaigners and unions react to approval of Rosebank oil field

“The greatest act of environmental vandalism in my lifetime”

The largest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea has been given the go-ahead by regulators, it was announced today, despite widespread concerns about its environmental impact.  

The controversial Rosebank offshore development near Shetland is the UK’s largest untapped oil field, estimated to contain 500 million barrels of oil. Owned by the Norwegian energy company Equinor and Ithaca Energy, they have now received consent for development following the acceptance of an environmental statement.

The news has been received with rallying calls to embolden the fight against the development, with a protest already taking place today in Westminster by Fossil Free London and another to follow on Saturday.

Campaigners have accused the government of ‘greenwashing’ the development, as it attempted to promote the Rosebank under the cover of investing in carbon capture and storage technology.

50 MPS and peers from across the main parties raised concerns last month about how much carbon dioxide the field is predicted to create, estimated to be more than the amount 28 countries produce in a year.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has slammed the approval of Rosebank as, “the greatest act of environmental vandalism in my lifetime”.

In agreement, Nicola Sturgeon added: “By consuming scarce resources that could be going to renewables, it risks slowing the green transition and the jobs that come from it. That’s not in interests of those who work in oil & gas – they need that transition to happen at pace.”

Whilst naturalist Chris Packham calling it: “No less than an act of war against life on earth.”

Scottish Labour MP Richard Leonard said it was, “nothing short of criminal” whilst the campaign group Friends of the Earth said the “disgraceful” decision, “shows the extent of the UK Government’s climate denial”.

The shadow secretary for business and trade, Jonathan Reynolds, spoke out on Sky News this morning to say that Labour did not support Rosebank. However he added that they would ‘not revoke any licenses the government choose to grant’.

However not everyone is opposed to the development. GMB Union believed Rosebank will allow the UK to achieve ‘better energy independence’ and put the  country in the ‘global race for climate jobs’.

Gary Smith, GMB General Secretary, said the country must be ‘honest’ about where we get gas up to 2050 and beyond.

“Sourcing this securely from domestic supplies is so much better than doubling down on our dependence on imported gas, especially in an increasingly volatile world,” said Smith.

“Taking responsibility for more of our own gas supply will support good union jobs, both directly and in the wider supply chain.

“Crucially, it will also unlock investment for the carbon capture and clean power developments we need to confront the climate crisis.”

But Greenpeace believed it is ordinary people who will suffer the consequences.

“The ugly truth is that Sunak is pandering to vested interests, demonstrating the stranglehold the fossil fuel lobby has on Government decision making,” said Philip Evans, Greenpeace UK’s climate campaigner. “We know that relying on fossil fuels is terrible for our energy security, the cost of living, and the climate. Our sky-high bills and recent extreme weather have shown us that.”

(Image credit: Friends of the Earth Scotland / Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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