Rishi Sunak confirms new carbon capture project and hundreds of new North Sea oil and gas licences

Prime Minister set to officially announce millions of pounds of funding in Aberdeenshire

Prime MinisterRishi Sunak has confirmed millions of pounds of funding for a new carbon capture project in Scotland, along with hundreds of new oil and gas exploration licences.

Mr Sunak is set to appear in Aberdeenshire later on today to officially announce this funding, which he says will create tens of thousands of jobs and help boost the UK’ energy security.

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Carbon capture takes the carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels and stores it underground to stop it being emitted into the atmosphere.

The Acorn carbon capture at St Fergus near Peterhead was snubbed for UK Government support in the first round of funding, however it is one of two projects to receive money from today’s announcement.

On top of funding for carbon capture in the North East, the Prime Minister will also give the green light to hundreds of new oil and gas exploration licences.

In a statement Mr Sunak defended the decision to approve a swathe of new oil and gas exploration licences, while wildfires exacerbated by climate change rage through parts of the Mediterranean.

He said: “We have all witnessed how Putin has manipulated and weaponised energy - disrupting supply and stalling growth in countries around the world.

“Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we bolster our energy security and capitalise on that independence to deliver more affordable, clean energy to British homes and businesses.

“Even when we’ve reached net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will come from oil and gas, but there are those who would rather that it come from hostile states than from the supplies we have here at home.”

He added: “We’re choosing to power up Britain from Britain and invest in crucial industries such as carbon capture and storage, rather than depend on more carbon intensive gas imports from overseas - which will support thousands of skilled jobs, unlock further opportunities for green technologies, and grow the economy.”

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His thoughts have been echoed by Andrew Bowie, who is MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and a minister in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Bowie said: “This is about maxing out oil and gas reserves and that means we will be much more energy secure and less dependent on hostile actors like Vladimir Putin.

“The independent climate change committee understands that fossil fuels will play a major role in our energy base for years to come, so we think it’s essential that fossil fuel comes from British waters, ensuring the revenue comes to the British exchequer rather than paying to important, which would have a higher CO2 emission and rely on sometimes hostile foreign powers.”

He added: “We are committed to reaching net zero by 2050.

“We were the first parliament in the world to legislate for that, and carbon capturing plays a major role in delivering that.”

The news has been tentatively welcomed by the SNP, but they remain sceptical about how much of an impact today’s announcement will have both on climate change, and on jobs in the North East of Scotland.

Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “Whilst I do welcome this - it is excellent news for the North East of Scotland - I am frustrated it has taken 18 years to get to this point.

“I think, as with anything that comes from the UK Government, the devil will be in the detail.”

Mr Flynn, who is the MP for Aberdeen South, added: “In terms of new licences it is important to take a couple of things into consideration.

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“First is energy security - everyone is acutely aware of how important energy security is with the hike in prices and the devastating impact that is having on households.

“The other thing is the looming climate catastrophe.

“Any new licences, which the UK Government appears to be accelerating, needs to be done on an evidence-based approach.”

Today’s announcement from Mr Sunak comes after Labour said it would ban any new exploration licences for oil and gas in the North Sea if they win the next general election.

Daniel Johnston MSP, Scottish Labour’s economy spokesman, says he feels the announcement is a “smoke screen” to hide other policies which are bad for the environment.

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, Mr Johnston said: “In terms of investment, yes it is good news for the North East.

“Carbon capture is a vital technology we need to invest in, but the UK Government is coming late to the table on this.

“I can’t help but feel this is a smokescreen - Rishi Sunak is making this announcement so he can make other announcements to appeal to his right wing that don’t believe in climate change and want to extract every last drop of oil.

“This is a government that’s acting more to do with its own internal politics than it is about climate change and achieving net zero.”

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He added: “You can’t invest in carbon capture and assume you can just extract and burn oil as you please.

“We need a clear trajectory to transition, both in terms of energy consumption and in jobs that rely on the North Sea.

“Frankly, we don’t have that plan from the UK Government, whereas Labour has set out a very clear plan to invest in renewables and reduce our reliance on oil and gas, something that is completely absent from this tired and out-of-touch UK Government.

“We’ve been clear we wouldn’t issue any new exploration licences - we must recognise we can’t keep extracting more oil and gas and expect to reach our climate targets.”



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