Cost-of-living crisis: Greenpeace vows legal action to delay Liz Truss North Sea oil plans

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has vowed to take legal action to scupper Liz Truss’s plans to trigger a new boom in North Sea oil and gas exploration if drilling licences do not take climate change impact into account.

The foreign secretary, who is favourite to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and defeat Rishi Sunak in the Conservative leadership race to No 10, is understood to be committed to awarding up to 130 new drilling licences to North Sea energy companies in an effort to solve the issues facing the UK’s long-term power provision.

However, legal action from Greenpeace could result in severe delays or cancellation of any licences Ms Truss gives the green light to.

Philip Evans, energy security campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “We stand ready to take legal action every time the Government acts unlawfully to push through new oil and gas projects without checking the climate impacts.”

Liz Truss during a hustings event at the Holiday Inn, in Norwich North, Norfolk. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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Mr Evans also claimed any new North Sea licences would not have any immediate impact on the sharp rise in energy bills that would be felt by households across the UK when the price cap rises to £3,549 in October.

“Approving new oil and gas licences has no impact on wholesale energy prices,” he said.

“Meanwhile Truss is reportedly against cheap, clean sources of energy like solar, which is a real failure to read the room.”

Ms Truss’s team believe the exploration licences will allow energy giants to chase the remaining estimated 15 billion barrels of gas and oil under the seas around the UK coast and would guarantee 26,000 jobs in the sector.

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The Government is already facing two legal battles after approving new fossil fuel projects that Greenpeace claims were not subject to “proper assessment of climate impacts”.

In July the campaign group launched legal action against the Government’s approval of a new exploration licence at Shell’s Jackdaw gas field.

Greenpeace is also threatening to launch an action against an application to the Government from Norwegian state-owned energy group Equinor for the development of the Rosebank oilfield, west of Shetland.

Mr Evans said: “We will fight Rosebank every step of the way, and urge the Government to crack on with quick, cheap solutions that will actually help in the cost-of-living crisis and the climate emergency – renewables, home insulation and heat pumps.”

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UK business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who is tipped to be appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer if Ms Truss enters Downing Street, and Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, have reportedly been holding talks with oil and gas giants to secure energy supplies amid fears of shortages this winter.

However, the House of Commons climate change committee estimate that it takes an average of 28 years for an exploration licence to lead to oil and gas production.

According to the UK Government’s energy security strategy, the next North Sea licensing round is scheduled to take place this autumn.

Ms Truss’s leadership campaign was contacted for comment.

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