The fossilised UK Government needs to wake up and smell the pollution.
Climate campaigners from grassroots group Fossil Free London marched through Westminster in London to demand that the UK Government reject Equinor’s plans to develop Rosebank oil field yesterday, Sunday 15 January 2023,
The campaigners carried a four-metre whale model, banners and placards from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to Downing Street.
Rosebank is the biggest undeveloped oil and gas field in the North Sea. Fossil fuel giant Equinor has submitted proposals to Westminster to develop Rosebank, which could produce almost 70,000 barrels of oil per day.
Like 80 per cent of all North Sea oil, the majority of this oil is likely to be exported and sold overseas. Burning Rosebank’s oil and gas would create more CO2 than the combined emissions of all 28 low-income countries in the world, including Uganda, Ethiopia and Mozambique.
It would also have a disastrous effect on marine life, with sea floor pipelines cutting through a protected area: the Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt, impacting a fragile ecosystem and rare sealife such as deep sea sponges and quahogs, a long-living variety of clam.
The protest’s four metre whale made of willow and tissue paper, highlights that the field is being built in a migration corridor for the fin whale and sperm whale.
Oil giant Equinor made pre-tax profits of over $24bn in the third quarter of 2022. Yet this license would give Rosebank a huge UK taxpayer subsidy of more than £500 million. Rosebank is majority-owned by the Norwegian government, which has a sovereign wealth fund worth in the region of $1.3 trillion.
Rosebank is nearly three times the size of the proposed Cambo oil field, which drew criticism last year from figures including SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Labour's Keir Starmer. If granted, this license would allow Rosebank to be still producing oil until 2051 - a year after the deadline for the UK’s legally binding net zero targets.
In 2022, thousands of activists forced oil giant Shell to pull out of the development of the Cambo oil field in the North Sea. The UK government has already delayed approval for the Rosebank oil field once. The campaigners’ goal is to make sure it stops for good.
Joanna Warrington, a spokesperson for Fossil Free London said: “Millions of people can’t pay their energy bills. Yet the UK Government is still handing out blank cheques to Norwegian oil barons who made record profits in 2022.
"The same week that Rishi Sunak hopped in a private jet instead of taking a two-hour train journey, the UK Government is considering licensing yet another climate-wrecking fossil fuel development. Honestly, it’s a joke.
"Even Shell has recognised that a new North Sea oil field is a bad idea. The fossilised UK Government needs to wake up and smell the pollution. The UK public doesn’t want to bankroll the Norwegian wealth fund. We want cheap, clean renewables to combat the energy crisis, not more oil executives getting rich off taxpayers’ money.”
Lauren MacDonald, a climate justice campaigner and spokesperson for Uplift, said: "The importance and beauty of the North Sea as a marine habitat often gets overlooked, but the truth is it is teeming with life which is under threat from oil hungry corporations.
"The Faroe-Shetland Channel, where Rosebank is set to be developed, is of particular importance as a habitat to blue and minke whales, and as a migration corridor for fin and sperm whales.
“The UK Government claims to support new Marine Conservation Zones, yet continues to allow oil companies to lay waste to existing ones. This cannot be allowed to go on. The government needs to refuse Rosebank for the sake of our seas."
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist.