The government is reportedly intent on classifying natural gas as a “green” option for investors in the face of protest by environmental campaigners.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is said to be keen for drilling for gas in the North Sea is reclassified by his department and the Treasury as “environmentally sustainable” – to encourage banks and pension funds to invest in the extraction projects, according to the Telegraph.
Extracting and burning natural gas significantly increases carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, green campaigners have warned.
But experts and officials – including the European Commission last year – have endorsed natural gas as a “transitional fuel” that they say can bridge the gap between coal and oil, which emit more carbon emissions, and clean renewable sources of energy.
On Friday, campaigners from Green New Deal Rising and Stop Cambo protested against the sky-high costs of gas and electricity inside a building where Mr Kwarteng was to meet business executives.
They added that energy company Shell has posted profits of £7 billion while many people are having to choose between paying their bills or buying groceries.
Green New Deal Rising accused Mr Kwarteng of putting “Shell’s profits before people’s lives” – adding that the government has rejected the idea of imposing a windfall tax on energy firms that could have funded support for those struggling to make ends meet.
Footage posted by the groups on social media shows a woman approaching Mr Kwarteng to say: “You are lying to the UK public. You are trying to make us believe that by drilling new oil and gas we will be safe.
“But in reality you are trapping us into an unaffordable energy system and you are destroying our future. The climate crisis will destroy our future.”
After, Mr Kwarteng tweeted: “Shout and scream all you like, but I’m not going to put Britain’s energy security at risk by shutting off domestic oil and gas production. We will need oil and gas for decades to come.
“Either we source more of what we need from the North Sea, or import more from abroad.”
Green New Deal Rising responded to his tweet saying: “You clearly weren’t listening, Kwasi. We want no NEW oil and gas. There are over 200 oil & gas fields producing in the North Sea. We don’t need more.
“The IEA have said repeatedly that we cannot exploit new oil & gas anywhere if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change.
“The people of the UK want a reliable, affordable energy supply that doesn’t risk their future.
“Approving new gas fields makes us more vulnerable to rising gas prices and more dependent on private companies like Shell, who are under no obligation to sell us gas cheaply or at all.
“The best way to import less oil & gas is to need less of it. We can do that through a massive programme of energy efficiency and by removing roadblocks to the cheapest, quickest renewable energy – onshore wind.”
In November 2020, chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government will create a “green taxonomy” to establish which sectors aid the UK in meeting its climate goals as a guide for investors.
As part of Mr Sunak’s overall plans to help the UK meet its 2050 net zero target and other environmental objectives, his department last year launched its first Sovereign Green Bond.