Rishi Sunak set to outline North Sea energy opportunities as row over net zero policy rumbles on


Rishi Sunak set to outline North Sea energy opportunities as row over net zero policy rumbles on

Rishi Sunak is heading to Aberdeenshire today as the Tories kick off a week of campaigning on energy security.

Number 10 said the prime minister would use the trip to “highlight the central role” Scotland will play in “defending the UK against disrupted global energy supplies” and reaching net zero targets.

Reports suggest Mr Sunak will announce millions of pounds for the Acorn carbon capture project, a joint venture between Shell and other firms, as well as new licences for North Sea oil and gas exploration – putting down a marker against Labour plans to stop new drilling.

Mr Sunak and his ministers have stressed the need to use North Sea fossil fuel resources, especially since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Such moves have prompted alarm from climate campaigners, with the government already facing opposition to any development of Rosebank, 80 miles northwest of Shetland.

Mr Sunak is expected to confirm how “Scotland will continue to be at the forefront of UK government plans to strengthen the UK’s long-term energy security”.

Downing Street said he would “highlight the crucial role that the region will play in enhancing and delivering on the UK government’s commitment to reaching net zero in 2050 and enhancing long-term energy security for generations to come”.

But the move comes as both main parties continue to argue over their commitment to key net zero policies and environmental promises.

The Conservatives’ narrow victory in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election opened a can of worms within Labour over London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plan to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to outer boroughs – something Sir Keir Starmer blamed for the loss.

Rishi Sunak set to outline North Sea energy opportunities as row over net zero policy rumbles on

The Labour leader and Mr Khan are continuing to hold discussions over the extension, with Sir Keir calling on his colleague to “reflect” on the impact on voters.

But Mr Khan has stood by the decision on the basis it will improve air quality for five million people in London.

Meanwhile, MPs on the right of the Conservative Party are appealing to the PM to rethink the government’s net zero commitments in light of the win, with calls for delays to a number of targets – including putting back the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.

Rishi Sunak set to outline North Sea energy opportunities as row over net zero policy rumbles on

Mr Sunak insisted on Sunday the 2030 deadline would remain, but did announce plans to for a review of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), saying he was on the side of drivers.

Downing Street has confirmed ministers are scrutinising existing pledges “in light of some of the cost of living challenges”, as the prime minister promised a “proportionate and pragmatic” approach to net zero.

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Mr Sunak is also set to meet industry leaders and workers while in Scotland.

And the government pledged that along with energy authorities, it would “go further than before in announcing continued decisive action to boost the capability of the North Sea industry to transition towards net zero, strengthen the foundations of the UK’s future energy mix and create the next generation of highly skilled green jobs”.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said any investment would be welcome, but he warned against any more “broken promises or delays”.

Rishi Sunak set to outline North Sea energy opportunities as row over net zero policy rumbles on

’13 years of failed Tory energy policy’

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, attacked the government for “13 years of failed Tory energy policy”.

“Every family and business is paying the price, in higher energy bills,” he said.

“It is absurd that having left this country so exposed, the Conservative Party is asking the public to believe they can fix it,” added Mr Miliband.

“And it’s telling that while Labour focuses on lower bills and good jobs, Rishi Sunak lurches desperately towards a culture war on climate to appease his split party, losing track of what he believes from day to day, depending on which faction he’s met with.

“It’s no way to govern and it’s costing working people.”


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