This week brought the expected announcement from Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, that the government would authorise 100 new licences to exploit oil and gas in the North Sea. He went so far as to say that they would “max out” the North Sea, claiming that this would help the U.K.'s energy security and have a much lower carbon footprint than if we had to ship oil and gas in from other countries.
Backlash and Horror
This week also brought the expected backlash and expressions of horror from sources as diverse as António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, Greenpeace, Conservative politicians and Just Stop Oil .
Hello, I'm Anthony Day and this is your Sustainable Futures Report for Thursday 3rd August. Let me start by welcoming Marc Lottig as the very latest Gold Patron who is joining the Sustainable Futures Report from Berlin. Marc’s concerns include sustainability and the climate crisis, and he has a special interest in sub-Saharan Africa. I hope he will be able to share his thoughts on a future podcast. Welcome, Marc.
Rishi Sunak made his announcement in Aberdeen. He's been criticised for making far too much use of helicopters, but this time he went in a private plane, despite the fact that to scheduled services would have got him to Aberdeen at about the same time. He was very short with the BBC interviewer who made the point. He was running the country, don’t you know!
Carbon Capture & Storage
Sunak took the opportunity to announce a new carbon capture and storage facility, which, at first sight would offset the CO2 produced by all the new oil and gas. Of course, this won't actually happen for two reasons. First of all carbon capture and storage has not been successfully implemented at commercial scale, and even if it ever works it will add significant costs to the power station or factory which uses it. Secondly, there is no way to capture and store the CO2 emitted by transport or by gas boilers and home heating. Of course if we all changed from gas boilers to electric heat pumps that would eliminate some emissions. Even so, it's not quite as simple as that. This week, a BBC documentary provided an interesting picture of heat pumps and their position in the UK energy environment. There’s a link below.
If the UK chooses to “max out” the resources in the North Sea, what is the stop other nations, deciding to maximise their own resources? That hardly makes us a global leader on the climate. And apart from the worries created by the extreme weather all over the world in this last couple of weeks, it has long been known that we cannot afford to exploit all remaining fossil fuels without irrevocably damaging the planet.
As far as energy security is concerned, none of these new projects will come on stream and begin producing oil or gas in less than 10 years, and probably nearer 20. And because fossil fuels are traded on global markets, there will be no difference to prices whether these fuels are sourced from the UK or from abroad. The carbon footprint of transporting them is a first class red herring. The transport carbon foot print is minute in comparison with the emissions created by actually using the oil and gas.
International Energy Agency
Fatih Birol, executive director, International Energy Agency, said, "If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year.” And he said that back in 2021.
This week António Guterres tweeted,
“July has already seen:
- The hottest three-week period ever recorded.
- The three hottest days on record.
- The highest-ever ocean temperatures for this time of year.
“It is still possible to avoid the very worst of climate change, but only with dramatic, immediate #ClimateAction."
Sir David King,
former UK chief scientific adviser and chairman of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, said it is now “almost certain” that the global average temperature will rise to at least 2C above pre-industrial levels, which scientists have warned could lead to further irreversible heating.
“Countries should band together and form a world climate crisis organisation akin to the World Health Organisation (WHO), to steer humanity through the unfolding disasters associated with the heating planet,” he said.
writing in the Guardian, says “Here’s the truth about Sunak’s plans for the North Sea: he will sell out the planet to the dirtiest bidders”. He warns that we're trapped between corrupt politicians and profiteers and we’ll all go down together.
Just Stop Oil
Just Stop Oil issued a detailed statement which pulls no punches.
"Rishi Sunak and his fossil fuel backers are taking us all for fools. Most people in this country know that oil is over. They know that carbon capture is greenwash. Only Sunak and the Tories have failed to get the message. Addicted to power and illegal donations from the fossil fuel industry they are shamelessly stoking culture wars and spinning endless lies to keep themselves in power.
But it is much, much worse than that. July was the hottest month ever because of burning fossil fuels. We can all see that something is desperately wrong when tens of thousands of panicking holidaymakers rush to Rhodes beaches to escape wildfires, Americans have suffered second degree burns from scorching pavements and European wheat crops are burning to a crisp.
Every new oil and gas license makes it harder for the world to reach net-zero (**real zero**) emissions and to stop global heating. Every delay in stopping global heating means worse climate impacts and more suffering.
Sunak is worse than a war criminal. He knows new oil and gas will impose unimaginable suffering and destroy the lives and livelihoods of billions of people. He knows that it will push the world past irreversible tipping points, meaning that the consequences and suffering will echo for centuries. He is risking nothing less than the collapse of human civilisation.
What will his obvious lies about “energy security” mean, when you can’t grow food, when violence stalks the streets, when everything you know and love is destroyed?
Licensing new oil and gas, in full knowledge of these consequences, isn’t just a crime against humanity. It is the greatest crime in human history.
We will not let this stand. We refuse to die quietly. Civil resistance is no longer an option, it is a necessity.
In late October, thousands of people will join Just Stop Oil in London to march on the roads, and we will not stop until we win.
Sign up for action.”
I’ve signed up
You’ll find the link to sign up below. I’ve signed up and I plan to be there. I have never risked arrest before but I am convinced that desperate times, justify desperate measures. It’s not just about the future for our grandchildren, it's becoming increasingly clear that our own relatively near future is at risk.
Just Stop Oil
Just Stop Oil is undoubtedly doing a good job at raising its profile. As my guest Solitaire Townsend told us last week, Just Stop Oil doesn’t want to be liked, it just wants to be noticed. It needs to be noticed. It’s getting noticed.
Some people are prepared to take extreme, always non-violent action, and some have received significant penalties. For example,
Queen Elizabeth II Bridge
Last October, Marcus Decker scaled the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at the Dartford Crossing together with Morgan Trowland, creating a public debate about the government's continued investment in new oil.
As a result of their protest, Marcus was sentenced to 2 years and 7 months in prison. He is a German citizen, and because of the length of the sentence, considered by many to be excessive, he is now being threatened with deportation. He has a partner and family in England who have already not seen him for months and fear not seeing him ever again.
Environmentalist Chris Packham has already called for Marcus to be released, and last week Marcus Decker and Morgan Trowland appealed their sentences. They argued that 2 years and 7 months and 3 years in prison, respectively, were unprecedented and grotesque punishments for their peaceful, selfless protest against the climate crisis.
The appeal judges decided that they disagreed. They decided that these prison sentences reflect "Parliament's will" as per the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.
There is a crowdfunder set up for Marcus’s legal fees to fight deportation, and a link below.
Environmentalist protesters against HS2 were also in court this week, although their sentences were far lighter. They built tunnels under the construction sites at Euston, and although they were found not guilty when they first came to court, the Crown Prosecution Service appealed, and at the new hearing they were either found guilty or pleaded guilty. The estimated cost of the disruption to the HS2 project was about £3.8million. All six were given prison sentences of between one and three months, suspended for 12 months. The tunnels had disrupted construction work for 30 days. By contrast, the two who climbed the QE2 Bridge were there for just 36 hours.
And in Other News..
Tuesday 1st August was Yorkshire Day, so of course the flags were out.
Earth Overshoot Day
Wednesday 2nd August was Earth Overshoot Day. Less cause for celebration.
And that brings me to the end of a brief, but I hope informative, Sustainable Futures Report. Thanks again to Marc Lottig for becoming a patron and thanks also to Adrian Bond for his insightful feedback on EVs. I suspect that’s a topic we’ll return to.
I have an interview scheduled for next week so if all goes well that will be next week’s episode. In the meantime, I hope all goes well for you and I hope it stops raining because it's been raining for at least, yes, I reckon it's been raining for the last 12 hours and it's expected to rain for the rest of the day. I blame climate change.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
I’m Anthony Day.
Until next time.