Climate change: As BP counts its record profits, Rishi Sunak must mean what he says about energy security and the drive to net zero carbon emissions – Scotsman comment

The creation of a new UK Government “Department for Energy Security and Net Zero” is a welcome sign that Rishi Sunak may actually understand the fight against climate change is, among other things, in this country’s economic interests.

The Prime Minister stressed he wanted the UK “to have greater energy security and independence because we can't be held to ransom by hostile foreign countries”, while a statement announcing the new department spoke of the need to “secure more energy from domestic nuclear and renewable sources as we seize the opportunities of net zero”.

Although Labour’s shadow Climate and Net Zero Secretary, Ed Miliband, may be right to dismiss the changes as the “rearranging of deckchairs on the sinking Titanic of failed Conservative energy policy”, only time will tell whether or not this is a substantive change.

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The news came as BP became the latest energy company to report record profits – which more than doubled to £23 billion in 2022 – made as a result of the global price rises largely caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For some reason, BP also chose that moment to announce it was lowering its target to cut emissions “from the carbon in its oil and gas production” from 35-40 per cent by 2030, to 20-30 per cent.

Scaling back efforts to decarbonise the production of fossil fuels – a main cause of climate change – just adds to the ignominy of making vast profits as a result of a war and sky-high energy bills that have pushed vast numbers of people into poverty. BP’s chief executive Bernard Looney insisted it was “helping provide the energy the world needs”, while investing in a transition to renewables, but many will draw the conclusion that its main interest is in selling high-cost oil and gas to keep the profits rolling in, regardless of the consequences to people’s cost of living and the climate.

The key test for ministers is whether they will play along with oil companies’ reckless disregard of climate science and the plight of their customers, or demand that they do better. With the world on course for ‘dangerous’ climate change and crying out for more cheap, clean renewable energy, such firms should choose to be part of the solution, or face government action to force them.



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