Cambo oilfield ‘directly opposed’ to UK interests on climate change - expert

A leading expert on climate change has said that the controversial Cambo oilfield is “directly opposed to the interests of the UK as a supposed leader in the battle against climate change”.

A North Sea oilfield (Photo: Shutterstock)

Professor Peter Wadhams of the University of Cambridge told NationalWorld: “Everything I’ve seen indicates that this oilfield is directly opposed to the interests of the UK as a supposed leader in the COP battle against climate change.”

Plans to begin offshore development at the Cambo oilfield off the coast of Scotland have caused controversy.

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The Cambo oilfield is expected to yield more than 800 million barrels of oil - but proposals to drill at the site have drawn sharp criticism from climate campaign groups such as Oxfam and Greenpeace.

Professor Wadhams added: “We are supposed to not endorse new oilfields or coal developments so as to focus on renewable energy. Unfortunately the prime minister cannot be trusted to hold a consistent view on this, so who knows what his policy will be when COP comes to be considered.”

Where is the Cambo oilfield?

The Cambo oilfield is located 125km (75 miles) northwest of the Shetland Isles.

It is in close proximity to other fields such as Rosebank and Schiehallion.

Who owns it?

The oilfield is jointly owned by Siccar Point Energy (70%) and Shell UK (30%).

According to their website, Siccar Point bought a 100% operated interest in the field from the takeover of OMV (U.K.) in January 2017 and brought Shell UK in as a partner in May 2018.

Why is the Cambo oilfield so controversial?

Despite recent shifts away from fossil fuels, Office of National Statistics figures currently indicate that 36,000 people are directly employed within the UK Oil and Gas sector, and the future of the industry is a point of contention.

Plans specify that drilling at the Cambo oilfield is scheduled for next year.

This will come just after the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) which is taking place in Glasgow this November.

The oilfield would release an estimated 135 million tonnes of carbon during its lifetime.

In Glasgow, countries will set new targets for the next five years to limit carbon emissions, by reducing their consumption of fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas.

In a statement from Oxfam, Climate Policy Advisor Tracy Carter said that plans to drill at Cambo are incompatible with the UK government’s net zero ambitions.

Friends of the Earth Scotland handed an 80,000-signature petition to 10 Downing Street warning that development of the field would “run roughshod over the UK’s commitments to meeting its climate targets”.

What are the politicians saying?

On his recent trip to Scotland, the Prime Minister indicated that he would not block the Cambo development, despite insisting he is seeking an “ambitious” agreement to rein in climate change at COP26.

Boris Johnson said there was a need to “transition as fast as we reasonably can” away from fossil fuels. But he said that the move to greener forms of power should be “smooth and sensible”.

Johnson had earlier claimed in a BBC interview not to be aware of the upcoming decision on the Cambo.

On his own visit to Scotland, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer voiced his opposition to the Cambo project, and called for a “hard edged” timetable for ending oil and gas extraction in the North Sea.

At the weekend, activists from Green New Deal Rising and the Stop Cambo group challenged the First Minister on why the Scottish Government was not opposing the development more strongly.

When asked if she would oppose the Cambo development, Nicola Sturgeon replied: "It’s not an issue for the Scottish Government. We are thinking about all of these things, we are trying to come to the right decision but there’s no doubt we should be moving away [from oil drilling].

"So there are hard questions to ask about whether things like that are commensurate and I totally get that. There’s some tough things for all of us to address and make decisions on."

Scottish Labour’s Net Zero spokeswoman Monica Lennon said the First Minister must oppose the Cambo proposal near Shetland: “To avoid the worst-case climate scenarios, it’s vital that our governments act on the findings of the IPCC report.

“For starters, Nicola Sturgeon must loudly oppose the proposed Cambo oilfield and stop hiding behind Boris Johnson, who treats climate emergency and the need for a just transition for workers and communities like a big joke.”

What are environmental experts saying?

Professor Peter Wadhams of the University of Cambridge is a world-leading researcher on polar sea ice decline and the effects of sea ice retreat on global climate.

Prof Wadhams told NationalWorld: “If the UK goes ahead with Cambo it will face gigantic criticism from all over the world.

“Since Boris always seeks the easy way out it may be that he will actually not proceed with Cambo, making himself look good and taking the easy way out at the same time.”

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