Green groups paint us as villains, minister says

time:2023-06-09 06:18:49source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center8

The climate minister has said "extreme green groups love to paint us as villains" on net zero, in a debate over the UK's use of fossil fuels.

Graham Stuart was defending the government's decision to allow more oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

During a committee hearing, one Labour MP quoted scientists who say fossil fuel projects should be closed down, not expanded.

But Mr Stuart insisted the move was "compatible" with climate targets.

The testy exchange came as Mr Stuart answered questions about the government's energy polices from MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee.

He defended the government's decision to grant new licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and its move to lift the ban on fracking, a controversial method of mining shale gas.

Prime Minister Liz Truss is seeking to expand UK production of fossil fuels in an attempt to increase energy supplies and lower bills, which are at record highs amid global economic turmoil.

Mr Stuart told the committee the UK would still be burning gas in 2050, when the country is committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions.

Asked by one Conservative MP if banning fracking in 2019 was a mistake, Mr Stuart repeated his claim that granting new oil and gas licences was "good for the environment".

This was because production emissions from extracting oil and gas in the North Sea were lower than those associated with imported fossil fuels, he said.

A 2020 report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) found the production of natural gas from the UK created less than half the emissions of imported liquefied natural gas (LNG).

But climate scientists say there can be no new fossil fuel projects if there is to be a chance of keeping global temperature rises under 1.5C.

Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global body for climate science, and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have expressed such a view.

The government's own advisers on climate change said in a report earlier this year that the best way to lower high energy prices was to stop using fossil fuels rather than drill for more of them.

Questioning Mr Stuart, Labour MP Clive Lewis asked if allowing further oil and gas exploration in the North Sea would "help us get to net zero".

Mr Lewis cited a scientific study showing oil production needed to be phased out by 2034 to offer a 50% chance that global temperatures would not increase by more than 1.5C, adding: "It sounds like you're peeing on our heads and telling us it's raining."

Mr Stuart described these as "assertions", saying: "Our production isn't going to spill over into the global market, our production is going to fall faster than is required globally."

Mr Lewis said, again citing scientists, that "this government is going in wrong direction on net zero".

But Mr Stuart said the UK had "led the global negotiations" on net zero and argued the government energy policies were "compatible" with hitting the target.

"I don't understand the point he [Clive Lewis] is making other than the fact he along with the more extreme green groups love to paint us as villains even when every available measure…"

Interjecting, Mr Lewis said: "We're not trying to paint you as villains. We're trying to get a truthful answer from you about the science.

"And the people that I have quoted are scientists. It's science vs Trussonomics."

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