A RENOWNED climate scientist and a coalition of activists have called on the UK Government to “resolutely reject” plans to develop a new oil field off the coast of Shetland.

The Cambo oil field, co-owned by Siccar Point Energy and Shell, is due to start drilling in 2022, if they are given permission by the Oil and Gas Authority. 

The project plans to start by drilling for 150 million barrels of oil -  equivalent to the annual pollution from 16 coal-fired power stations.

The issue has caused outrage amongst environmentalists, as the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that to meet the 1.5°C target in the Paris Agreement, there should be no more development of new oil, gas, or coal. 

READ MORE: Cambo oil field: What does it mean for climate targets?

And now, a coalition of leading climate experts and groups representing young people, parents and activists across the UK are calling on the proposals to be ditched.

The UK Government has been slammed for their “hypocrisy” ahead of COP26, a UN climate conference, which is due to be held in Glasgow later this year.  

The group, responding to the Government’s consultation into the environmental impact of the crude oil field, have said that Shell and Siccar Point Energy have failed to account for the significant impact on the climate that burning gas and oil extracted from the site will have in their environmental statement. 

One of the leading voices of the group Dr James Hansen is a former NASA climate scientist who told a US congressional hearing in 1988 that he could declare with “99% confidence” that rising temperatures were a result of human activity. 

The National:

Hansen was one of the first leading scientists to warn that climate change was happening, and he didn’t hold back in his scathing assessment of the impact of the Cambo oil field.

He said: “The UK Government simply cannot aspire to international leadership on climate if its ministers blithely press forward on major fossil fuel projects. 

“We are already well above the safe level of global atmospheric CO2 – witness the near-overtopping of numerous atoll-island nations and the recent heatwaves and fires in Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, California, and Australia. 

“This implies that the major emitting nations need to get their act together, without further delay, to ensure that all fossil fuels within their reach bear their true cost to society, including their imposition on future generations and the environment. 

“Indeed, we are demanding the same in the US.”

READ MORE: Cambo oil field: Thousands sign petition to stop Shetland oil project

The regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGUK), part of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, must now decide whether to approve or reject the plans, which come just months before the UK is due to host the crucial UN climate conference in Glasgow.

The Cambo field off the coast of the Shetland Islands contains over 800 million barrels of oil, and if approved would be producing oil and gas until 2050.

That is the same year as the UK Government’s target date for Net Zero emissions. The Scottish Government’s target is 2045. 

Friends of the Earth say both the UK and Scottish Government’s official policy is to maximise recovery of oil and gas – despite being in direct contradiction to their efforts to reduce fossil fuel use.

The National:

There are 14 organisations who backed Hansen’s plea, including ClientEarth, Uplift, Friends of the Earth (EWNI), Friends of the Earth Scotland and E3G.

Fossil Free London, Parents for Future UK and Parents for Future Glasgow, Platform, Oil Change International, Mothers Rise Up, as well as Climate Action Strathearn, UK Student Climate Network and Robin Hood Tax all called for the oil project to be halted. 

Sam Hunter Jones, ClientEarth lawyer, said that opening the field “flies in the face” of the warning from the IEA.

He said: “The direct emissions from oil extraction at Cambo will further widen the gap between the UK’s projected emissions and the reductions required to meet its decarbonisation targets. 

READ MORE: Cambo oil field: Scottish Greens call UK an 'embarrassment'

“Add to that the much larger emissions from downstream use of the oil, for which there has as yet been no assessment, and the inconsistency with keeping to the global 1.5C temperature goal becomes even more stark. 

“The UK is already facing scrutiny over its lack of progress in reducing emissions from its oil and gas production. 

“Allowing this project to go ahead whilst claiming to be a global leader in climate action is another worrying example of the government’s growing hypocrisy ahead of COP26.”

Ryan Morrison, Friends of the Earth Scotland just transition campaigner, said: “The UK Government should be sitting down with people and communities who work in oil and gas to develop a plan of how we can rapidly transition away from these industries in a way that is fair and brings their skills and experience to renewables and decommissioning. 

The National:

“With the right policy and investment, three times as many green jobs can be created than currently exist in these polluting fossil fuel industries. 

“Instead we see the Government in lockstep with big polluters to keep on drilling and delaying the necessary transition away from oil and gas.”

Mike Tholen, OGUK's sustainability director, said: "The UK offshore oil and gas industry is changing and applying low carbon thinking to all its projects, including the Shetland-based Cambo project, to support the transition to greener, cleaner energy. 

READ MORE: Cambo oil field: Independence is needed to stop greedy UK plans

“This project has been in the planning process since the government granted its exploration licence back in 2001 and included in long-term energy projections.

“Cutting investment in UK projects will do little to reduce demand, which would instead be met by resources produced in other countries with no jobs, taxes paid or support to our energy supply chain, building a renewable capability from a firm business base.”