Government launches offshore oil and gas consultation

Climate-compatible oil and gas is "pure fantasy" says Friends of the Earth
  Published:  20 Dec 2021    |      2 minute read

The government has today announced a new consultation on its "Climate Compatibility Checkpoint" which will assess the impact of future offshore oil and gas developments on the climate crisis. Friends of the Earth warns the new mechanism is unfit for purpose because it will fail to stop new climate-wrecking projects being approved.

Under the plans unveiled today, only new licensing rounds for offshore oil and gas will be assessed using the checkpoint. However, projects that have so far been licensed but not yet approved for development will not be considered. This goes against the checkpoint’s aim of ensuring the UK complies with global efforts to curb climate breakdown.

In October, Friends of the Earth revealed that there were 30 licensed offshore projects expected to receive a decision on development consent before 2025. Collectively, these developments are projected to emit around a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent if given the green light. However, as part of the new process outlined by the government today, they do not qualify for assessment. This is in spite of the overwhelming scientific evidence that no new oil and gas developments can be approved if global heating is to be limited to 1.5 degrees.

Reacting to today’s announcement, Danny Gross, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“The idea that a new oil or gas project can ever be "climate compatible" is pure fantasy. Scientists have told us repeatedly that approving new developments is inconsistent with limiting global heating to 1.5. Yet our leaders continue to say one thing and do another, with puffed-up announcements that offer little on close inspection.

“If this new checkpoint leaves the door open to future oil and gas licences, the UK will fall catastrophically behind on climate and importantly, phasing out fossil fuels. Considering the government holds the COP presidency until late next year, the coming months are ripe with opportunity for the UK to set a good example. This approach is half-baked and undermines the UK’s climate credibility.”

By introducing the new checkpoint, the UK remains ineligible to join a new coalition called the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) as a full member. Launched at last month’s climate talks, the coalition includes Ireland and Wales as members. To join as a full member, the UK would be required to make a commitment to end all new licensing rounds, as well as phase out oil and gas production in line with the Paris Agreement.

The government is also consulting on whether to include a test to assess the "end-use" emissions caused by potential new sites. "End-use" refers to the emissions created when the oil and gas is burned. It is vital that the government includes this test as part of the checkpoint.



  1. The consultation on the government’s new Climate Compatibility Checkpoint is scheduled to last until 28 February 2022.
  2. There is clear scientific evidence that all new oil and gas developments are incompatible with limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees:
    1. The International Energy Agency’s net zero report – which was commissioned by COP26 President Alok Sharma – found that all new oil and gas developments globally are inconsistent with the world reaching net zero by 2050.
    2. 70 climate scientists and academics recently signed an open letter calling on the government to end investment and licensing for new oil and gas fields in the UK.
    3. A landmark academic study published in Nature found that the vast majority of fossil fuels globally need to stay in the ground to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°. The authors of the study have called for an immediate end to new fossil fuel extraction projects in the UK.
  3. Friends of the Earth’s Tip of the Iceberg report found 30 offshore oil and gas projects seeking approval for development by 2025. Subsequently, in November 2021, Parkmead Group relinquished its license for the Platypus field. On 10th December 2021, Siccar Point Energy announced it was pausing the Cambo oil field project in the North Sea, just a week after Shell pulled out of the project.