Activists harshly criticize Sunak government’s approval for Rosebank oil and gas field project

Activists say the operationalization of the Rosebank oil and gas fields is a severe blow to the UK’s commitment to save the planet and humanity. They have demanded a focus on renewable energy schemes

October 02, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
A protest against the Rosebank oil and gas field project.

The Conservative government’s decision to approve the development of the controversial Rosebank oil and gas field project in Scottish territorial waters has been widely criticized by climate activists and other progressive sections in the UK. On September 27, the UK’s oil and gas regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority, issued a license to develop the project for oil and natural gas production. Various groups, including the Greens party, Communist Party of Britain, and Young Communist League, and activists from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, Uplift, Fossil Free London, and ‘This is Rigged,’ denounced the approval of the project and termed it as a suicidal U-turn from the commitment to save the planet and humanity. On September 30, a protest rally was organized in Huddersfield by Eco Activist Network.

The offshore Rosebank oil, the largest untapped oil and gas field in the North Sea, is owned by the Norwegian energy giant Equinor ASA and Ithaca Energy plc. It is said to contain around 500 million barrels of oil. According to reports, both companies have announced plans to invest $3.8bn in its development.  The Stop Rosebank campaign has stated that “Thanks to a huge, new subsidy introduced by the UK government with the windfall tax, the UK public would effectively hand over more than half a billion pounds to Rosebank’s owners to develop the field.” The campaign also stated that burning the field’s oil and gas would create more carbon dioxide than “the combined emissions of all 28 low-income countries in the world.”

The Ukraine war and profiteering by big corporates has caused an energy crisis in Europe, leading to a renewed focus on tapping oil and gas fields. The Conservative government has justified the approval for Rosebank as a means of ensuring energy security and self-reliance. However, energy prices will not automatically decrease for domestic customers. The BBC quoted Arne Gurtner, Equinor’s senior vice president for the UK, as saying that “If the UK needs Rosebank oil, it will go to the UK through open market mechanisms.” The Labour Party has also said it will not revoke the license to the project if it comes to power.

On September 29, Johnnie Hunter from the leadership of the Young Communist League (YCL-Britain) told Peoples Dispatch that “Approving the exploitation of new oil fields in the North Sea rather than investing in green energy and working for a just transition is suicidal and continues to roll back any commitment to save the planet and humanity. Capitalism as a system is unable and unwilling to change. Energy and environmental policies must be made by unions and workers. Whichever party is in power, the government must be held to and accelerate the commitment to net zero carbon emissions. Rather than opening new oil fields we must unblock and invest in renewable energy schemes — prioritizing manufacturing by union workers in a green public sector.”

Earlier, on September 27, Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn posted on X that “the UK government’s decision to approve Rosebank displays shameful disregard for future generations. Some want to “give investors certainty,” but how much certainty will investors have on a burning planet? #StopRosebank and invest in renewables instead!”