THE UK Government has given £13.6 billion to the oil and gas sector since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed, campaigners say.

Environmental campaigners claim that's proof that Westminster's framework for fossil fuels must change.

But the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says it's been following the International Energy Agency’s approach.

The state's financial framework for oil and gas production is at the centre of a case set to be heard at the High Court on December 8 – less than one month since Glasgow hosted the COP26 climate summit.

Three campaigners, including an Edinburgh medical student, an SNP activist and a former oil refinery worker, are challenging the strategy followed by Westminster's Oil and Gas Authority (OGA). The trio – Mikaela Loach, Kairin van Sweeden and Jeremy Cox – claim that strategy is unlawful because it encourages production of oil and gas that is not economic for the UK as a whole and conflicts with the country’s legal duty to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

They're supported by Paid to Pollute, which has produced new analysis of the extent of the financial support offered by UK authorities for North Sea production.

READ MORE: Cambo oil field: Nicola Sturgeon says Shetland field should not get green light

According to this work, that ran to £13.6bn since 2016, when the Paris Agreement was signed, and 2020. The total includes £9.9bn in tax reliefs for new exploration and production and £3.7bn in payments towards decommissioning costs.

Loach said: "The UK Government’s support for new oil and gas not only undermines global climate goals and any sense of climate justice, it also risks wasting huge amounts of public money on projects that are more likely to line polluters' pockets than bring any real economic benefit to this country.

"As a country with significant historical responsibility for the climate crisis, the UK has an obligation to be one of the first to move away from oil and gas production, deliver a just transition and, like Scotland, commit to financing communities that are already dealing with the impacts of the climate crisis."

This month world leaders reconfirmed the target of limiting climate change to 1.5°C in the Glasgow Climate Pact and also committed to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. However, potential production at the Cambo field remains on the table as one of 18 potential new projects that could benefit from tax breaks.

Fossil fuel firms can offset all spending on exploration against tax, and almost all spending on new fields in the first year of development. Paid to Pollute cites OECD figures revealing £15m in direct grants for exploration between 2016-20. And in 2019-20, private companies claimed bac £500m in decommissioning costs. Official estimates put the total cost to the public purse at in excess of £18bn.

Van Sweeden said: "The Glasgow Climate Pact recognises that we must stop subsidising fossil fuels, yet the UK Government's subsidies to oil and gas producers makes the UK the most profitable country in the world for big offshore oil and gas projects.

READ MORE: Lesley Riddoch: What role does Westminster play in Cambo considering FM's position?

"The UK Government has to stop supporting industries that are causing the climate emergency and instead redirect our public money towards retraining, re-skilling and re-employing the current oil and gas workforce into renewables. They should have the just transition the miners deserved but never received."

However, a UK Government says the International Energy Agency’s approach to fossil fuel subsidies was originally developed with the European Commission and G20 EU Member States to respond to the G20 commitment to phase out such subsidies.

A spokesperson said: "A UK Government spokesperson said: "The UK does not give any subsidies to fossil fuels, and we follow the approach of the International Energy Agency. No other significant oil and gas producing nation has gone as far as the UK in supporting sector’s gradual transition to a low carbon future, as demonstrated by our North Sea Transition Deal.

"While we are backing the UK’s oil and gas industry’s transition to green energy, there will continue to be ongoing but diminishing need for oil and gas over the coming years while we ramp up renewable energy capacity, as recognised by the independent Climate Change Committee.

"The Cambo oil field was originally licensed in 2001. Development proposals for oil fields under existing licences are a matter for the independent expert regulators. No decision has been taken yet."