Net zero review author vows to vote against King’s Speech

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, the author of a government-commissioned review of net zero, has vowed to vote against government plans to legislate for annual oil and gas licensing, as outlined in the King’s Speech earlier this week.

Skidmore, who authored a review of the UK’s legally binding net zero target, spoke out about the government’s planned Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill in a debate in the House of Commons, which traditionally follows the monarch’s speech.  

The bill will require the North Sea Transition Authority to run an annual tender process for applications for new production licences in the UK’s offshore waters. 

Skidmore pointed to a document given to him by the Conservative Party campaign headquarters brief. “I assume CCHQ wants me to read from it. It says: ‘Even with continued licensing, production from the UK Continental Shelf is projected to decline at seven per cent annually, this decline is faster than the average global decline’.”

The UK's North Sea gas production is down by two-thirds since 2000 and is set to drop by another 97% by 2050 – even with new licensing rounds it would fall by 95%, according to analysis of data from the North Sea Transition Authority by Carbon Brief.

“If we want to deliver effective energy security, we need to turn the debate on its head, because we have not really focused on what we need to achieve, which is a reduction in demand," Skidmore said. 

"This should be achieved through energy efficiency measures such as heat pumps, which will reduce gas demand", he added. 

He said that since the UK does not have sufficient plants to refine the oil, it will be sent to the Netherlands and then sold on international markets by foreign companies, he added, pointing out that Rosebank is operated by Equinor, the Norwegian state-owned energy company.

“Unfortunately, this will be the first time that I am unable to vote for the King’s Speech… I will not be put in a position of supporting new oil and gas licensing when it is not needed, either for environmental reasons, obviously, or for economic reasons,” he said. 

He added that continuing to suggest that the UK can produce oil and gas forever will let down the communities that need to be transitioned. 

“We cannot continue to drill for oil, because there is no oil left to drill. That is the economic reality that investors already understand,” he said.

Speaking in the same debate, Labour MP Barry Gardiner said that the bill would do nothing to tackle fuel poverty, but would instead “shovel yet more public money to the oil and gas sector”.

He urged the government to justify its claim that the bill would enhance energy security, pointing out that energy companies would sell the gas on international markets and refine the oil abroad. 

“These licenses are part of a scramble to be the last country to sell the last barrel of oil. I gently remind the Secretary of State that the stone age did not end because of a lack of stone, and the oil age will not end because of a lack of oil,” Gardiner said.