August 18, 2022

‘People Are Waking Up’: Campaign To Stop New North Sea Fossil Fuel Drilling Broadens

5 min read
'People Are Waking Up': Campaign To Stop New North Sea Fossil Fuel Drilling Broadens

Ministers undoubtedly assumed the news would leak out quietly when the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, tweeted on the eve of the long jubilee weekend that the government had approved a new oil and gas project in the North Sea.

But less than a day later, hundreds of demonstrators flocked to the streets of the UK to express their outrage at the government’s decision to build more fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the world faces a serious climate crisis.

They obstructed the entry to government buildings in Edinburgh by daubing the windows and walls with red paint and writing inscriptions, such as “blood on your hands,” on them. In order to get the government to change its mind, protesters gathered outside the business secretary’s office in Westminster in London and chanted “we will win.”

The fight to block any expansion of North Sea oil and gas is one of the UK’s fastest-growing and most diversified climate movements, and the quickness and scope of the response to the news provide a window into this movement.

One of the key players in the campaign, 21-year-old Lauren MacDonald, claimed that after the announcement, a vast network of campaign groups erupted into activity.

There were a few of us working together at 4.45 p.m. right before the start of a bank holiday weekend when someone asked, “Oh, have you seen this? ” and that was it. People all throughout the country started organizing since there was so much activity in the group chats.

'People Are Waking Up': Campaign To Stop New North Sea Fossil Fuel Drilling Broadens

Many different groups are involved in the effort to halt further North Sea oil and gas extraction, from young climate activists to fuel poverty campaigners, senior members of the Church of England to doctors and lawyers, trade unionists to direct action environmentalists, and large NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to a small neighborhood and community groups.

It faces a challenging task. Following “severe policy failures” and “scant evidence of performance,” the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the government’s own statutory advisers, expressed concerns last month that ministers would back out of the legally binding goal to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

To halt new fossil fuel ventures in the North Sea, Tessa Khan, head of the advocacy organization Uplift, said the struggle was urgently needed and “unique [in the UK] in its breadth and diversity]. She continued by saying that an increasing number of climate justice organizations were increasingly connecting the global warming threat to broader issues of social justice and poverty.

It is a true testament to the strength of this movement and the tenacity of individuals involved, she added, to see the variety of voices and organizations, think tanks, and others that are involved.

When Shell withdrew from the contentious Cambo oilfield off the coast of Shetland last year, campaigners from Stop Cambo, the predecessor of the present campaign, celebrated a significant victory. Some at the time believed it would be a “death blow” to further oil and gas development off the UK coast.

However, the cost of living crises and the Ukraine conflict has altered the political environment. Companies that extract fossil fuels and are supported by the UK government are moving forward with new plans, claiming that doing so will help with energy security and rising energy costs.

Many experts have refuted these claims, claiming that the UK’s reliance on increasingly expensive fossil fuels is to blame for the country’s problems with climate change, energy insecurity, and the cost of living crises.

They also note that any additional fossil fuel production won’t start for years, and even then, it would be sold on to international markets, meaning it would have little to no impact on UK energy costs.

'People Are Waking Up': Campaign To Stop New North Sea Fossil Fuel Drilling Broadens

According to Khan, more and more people are realizing that the justifications offered by the UK government and the fossil fuel industry are unconvincing. Because of this significant geopolitical development, the sector appears to be ahead of the game right now compared to last year, but in reality, I believe they are more susceptible than ever because people are starting to wake up.

The urgency of the warnings regarding the effects of increasing fossil fuel output on the climate is increasing. A recent scientific analysis concluded that if global warming was to be kept below 1.5C, the internationally agreed-upon goal for averting climate catastrophe, roughly half of existing sites needed to be shut down early.

A conservative organization, the International Energy Agency, demanded an end to all new oil, gas, and coal developments last year. Furthermore, according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, banks that backed the fossil fuel industry and the firms that produced them “have humanity by the throat” and are pressuring nations to stop using fossil fuels if the world is to avert catastrophe.

The push to halt the UK government’s ambitions for North Sea expansion, according to Khan, is gathering pace in this setting.

“For anyone who considers this, the evidence is overwhelming… The next few years are essential, and I believe that more people will begin to recognize that there is something fundamentally wrong with our current preference for oil and gas over renewable energy sources.

One of those varying voices is Steven Croft, the bishop of Oxford. He was one of more than 500 church leaders who signed a letter to the government earlier this year urging it to encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency more and forgo new fossil fuel developments in order to address the climate and cost of living challenges.

In an interview with the Guardian, he claimed that the church had a crucial role to play in the campaign for climate justice by bringing people together and providing moral guidance and hope. We must acknowledge the truth of our situation while also realizing that not everything is lost and that, working together, we can still change things.

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