With COP28 beginning this week, the UK must demonstrate commitment to our own targets as a contribution to meeting global targets set out in previous COP gatherings. This year has seen increasingly extreme weather, with heatwaves hitting around the world last week, which saw feel-like temperatures in Brazil hit a deadly 58.5C. Currently, there is a drought in Ethiopia, October saw multiple storms hit the UK, causing flooding, fatalities and enormous disruption, and cities around the world are developing new defences as sea levels continue to rise alarmingly.
In September, the Prime Minister announced that a series of policies designed to help us achieve net-zero would be slackened or scrapped. These included new taxes to discourage flying, a meat tax, improvements to home recycling schemes and encouragement to car share. It also stated that new oil and gas extractions in the North Sea could go ahead. This was followed by the announcement from the North Sea Transition Authority, the UK Government’s regulator, allowing development of the Rosebank oil field. Rosebank is approximately 130 kilometres north-west of the Shetland Islands. It is the biggest undeveloped oil field in the UK, containing the equivalent of around 500 million barrels of oil. This is equivalent to around 8% of Britain’s oil requirements up to 2030 although most of the oil is likely to be exported due to lack of refinery capacity in the UK.
Church leaders have been clear in their objection to this change of UK government policy. Last month, over 400 Christian leaders called on the Prime Minister to cancel plans to extract fossil fuels from Rosebank. In a recent article in the Methodist Recorder, JPIT Policy Adviser, Steve Hucklesby, brought attention to this resistance suggesting that ”there must be no new investments in further oil and gas extraction if we are to stay within the 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement”.
In order to live up to commitments to tackle the climate crisis the UK must concentrate first on de-carbonising our economy. There needs to be a strict plan, with clear timelines for ending fossil fuel extraction, and any new licences must be reviewed in this light. The independent Climate Change Committee has assessed that the UK’s policy measures are currently insufficient to meet climate targets of net zero by 2050. The government must get the UK back on track to reach these targets.
We hope that COP28 (30 Nov-12 Dec) will be productive and positive, ensuring a continued commitment to preventing a global temperature rise above 1.5C. We will be watching the UK government position carefully and reporting on this. Will the rhetoric of UK leadership that was so strongly vocalised at COP26 stand up to scrutiny at the COP in UAE next week?
Methodist Recorder article, 17 November 2023 edition
New York’s plans to protect itself from sea level rises, Guardian article
London Thames barrier developments, Guardian article
Venice flood defences, CNN article