In a commitment to let areas profit from clean power projects, the Labour party has pledged to end new North Sea oil and gas exploration.
Speaking in Edinburgh today Keir Starmer proposed the creation of a publicly owned clean energy company with its headquarters north of the border, if the party wins the next election.
Starmer’s green energy promises
Today, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, unveiled his party’s fourth mission for a better Britain which is “to make Britain a clean energy superpower to create jobs, cut bills and boost energy security with zero-carbon electricity by 2030”.
Labour has confirmed it would “not grant licences to explore new fields” in the North Sea, a momentous shift for a sector which supports 200,000 UK jobs, including 90,000 in Scotland, according to trade body Offshore Energies UK. Starmer said “Labour will deliver lower bills, good jobs, and energy security for Scotland and the whole UK, as Britain leads the world in the fight against climate change.”
One of Labour’s initiatives will be to provide more incentives for areas to take part in new clean energy projects. Under Labour’s plans, GB Energy – the new publicly-owned firm which it says will be based in Scotland at a location yet to be decided – would play a key role in getting that message across.
Labour says GB Energy could end up providing up to £600m per year to local councils to invest in green infrastructure and a further £400m annually in low interest loans for community projects. These community loans would be designed to ensure small projects could benefit from the expertise of GB Energy while also generating money for local areas.
However, the party insists it will honour any licences in existence at the time of the next election, which must be held by January 2025. That is likely to include the controversial new Rosebank development west of Shetland.
Offshore Energy UK’s chief executive David Whitehouse said that Labour’s plans to move away from the reliance of North Sea oil and gas “would create a cliff edge” due to deterring investment and heightening the risk of energy shortages. Whitehouse said 180 of the North Sea’s 283 active oil and gas fields were due to close by 2030, and new licences were “essential” or production would “plummet” and “the UK and its skilled workforce will be exposed”.
However, Philip Evans, of Greenpeace UK, said the idea that the plans would “lead to an overnight shutdown of the industry” was nonsense. He added that Labour’s opposition to new exploration licences represented “genuine leadership” and the party was right “to debunk scare stories being peddled by climate delayers”.
Similarly, Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, welcomed Labour’s latest ideas but warned “there can be no backsliding on pledges to stop new oil and gas extraction and invest in green growth”.
The Scottish Conservatives’ energy spokesman Liam Kerr described Labour’s plans as “ruinous” for the UK’s oil and gas industry, claiming they “would throw up to 90,000 highly skilled workers in the North East under a bus pretty much overnight”.
Starmer is facing increasing pressure from both environmentalists and the oil industry. Considering the Labour Party have recently dropped their pledge to invest £28bn a year into green industries, this casts doubt over the level of commitment the party has to green policies at a time when they are needed most.