ONE of the architects of the Stop Cambo campaign has said the UK Government is “missing in action” in the bid to move away from fossil fuels.

Tessa Khan, founder and director of Uplift, one of the campaign groups behind Stop Cambo, welcomed the news that the project has been “paused” but warned that the battle is not over yet.

Siccar Point Energy (SPE), which owns a 70% stake in the project, announced on Friday morning that they will  “evaluate next steps” for the crude oil field located 125km off the north west coast of Shetland. It came a week after their partner Shell pulled investment in Cambo.

Khan, along with Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland and other environmental activists, spearheaded the campaign calling for the UK Government to intervene and not give the production license for the project the go ahead.

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The campaign began in June last year after Uplift and FoE Scotland were made aware of Cambo after regulator OPRED opened a public consultation on the impact of the field on the environment.

It later became a focal point during COP26 in November as campaigners carried placards calling for an end to the project during mass protests and even took oil barrels emblazoned with the sloga to the UK Government’s hub at the climate summit.

However, the UK Government and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Startegy (BEIS) have remained tight-lipped on the subject, and Khan says their actions don’t live up to their rhetoric.

The National:

FoE Scotland took oil barrels and protesters to the UK Government's front door during COP26

Khan, who is also an international climate change lawyer, said that SPE’s decision was “another huge blow” for the future of Cambo.

She added: “I mean what it does highlight, I think more than anything else, is that the UK Government is really missing in action when it comes to making a decision about the future not just of Cambo, but also the 29 other north sea oil and gas projects that are up for approval in the next few years.”

The campaigner then hit out at the UK Government for “constantly dodging the question” and avoiding responsibility over the future of Cambo and other fields.

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Khan insisted that the Tory government has the “final sign off” on oil and gas projects, something which they have previously tried to deny, but were forced to confirm.

She added: “They realise, as have all the people who have come out in opposition to Cambo, that it's impossible to reconcile opening up new oil and gas fields with a livable climate and the UK’s own climate goals.

“What’s really required, rather than just leaving it to the market and to oil and gas companies, who certainly haven’t had the interests of the oil and gas workforce at heart for the last few years, is the UK Government absolutely has to get on the front foot and plan a managed transition rather than just leaving it to a kind of deferred chaotic collapse of the industry which is what we’re witnessing now.”

The National:

Khan is founder and director at Uplift, part of the Stop Cambo campaign, as well as a lawyer

The shock announcement from SPE came after months of campaigning and pressure on the UK Government and Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) to stop the project in its tracks.

Warnings from UN secretary general Antonion Gutteres that the latest IPCC report on climate change signalled a “code red for humanity” and should sound the “death knell” for fossil fuels only strengthened the calls.

Khan said she’s unsure if the pandemic, and more people being plugged into their phones and the news, had an impact on the success of the campaign.

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She added: “I just think there is a huge groundswell of genuine outrage when people hear that the UK Government is opening up new oil and gas fields in 2021.

“That’s something that people find really difficult to square with its rhetoric around climate leadership and certainly the opposition to for example the Cumbria coal mine is also indicative of the way that people understand that fossil fuels are what are driving the climate crisis.

“So for the UK to be kind of locking in decades more of fossil fuel production in the future is really irrational.”

The National:

Greenpeace have also been involved in the campaign taking oil-splattered barrels to Downing Street

Among activists, the news that the field is being paused was received well, but Khan noted there were frustrations.

She said: “The campaign has really targetted the UK Government as the decision maker, and as I said they’re the only party that can really support a credible just transition for the oil and gas workforce and for the communities that are reliant on oil and gas.

“I mean they are incredibly frustrated that every party bar the UK Government has seen that this is a project that just isn’t a good idea and isn’t viable.”

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A spokesperson for BEIS said: “While this is ultimately a commercial decision to be taken independently by Siccar Point Energy, we remain committed to our domestic offshore oil and gas sector, which continues to keep us warm, fuel our cars and strengthen our security of supply while we grow our renewables sector.

“Without a domestic source of gas in the meantime, we would be even more reliant on foreign imports.”