The prime minister has said a renewed push on oil and gas licences will put Britain “on the right path for the future”.
The comments came as it was revealed the government will expand North Sea oil and gas exploration in the King’s Speech, as the PM seeks to widen the divide with Labour on the environment and energy security.
In a measure to be announced in the King’s Speech, ministers will legislate to ensure new licences can be awarded every year.
The government has said the change will boost energy security and reduce dependence on “hostile foreign regimes”.
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In an article for the Telegraph, energy security secretary Claire Coutinho argues that the change would provide certainty for the 200,000 workers connected to North Sea oil and gas.
She writes: “The Labour Party’s short-term approach of turning off the taps without a plan to replace them would only deepen our dependency on high-emission imports and jeopardise our ability to create growth here in the UK.”
Speaking to Sky News this morning, Coutinho said the annual system to award new oil and gas licences will ensure the UK does not rely on foreign imports.
She added that the independent Climate Change Committee “has acknowledged that when we reach net zero in 2050, we’re still going to need oil and gas”.
Rishi Sunak has said of the new law: “Domestic energy will play a crucial role in the transition to net zero, supporting jobs and economic growth, while also protecting us from the volatility of international markets and diversifying our energy sources.
“The clarity and certainty that our new legislation will provide will help get the country on the right path for the future.”
But the Labour Party has hit back at the proposed legislation, declaring it a “stunt” and questioning its necessity by noting there is already regular oil and gas licensing.
Shadow secretary of state of climate change and net zero Ed Miliband has said the proposed bill “does nothing to lower bills or deliver energy security.”
He added: “We already have regular North Sea oil and gas licensing in Britain, and it is precisely our dependence on fossil fuels that has led to the worst cost of living crisis in generations.”
The move to legislate to ensure new licences can be awarded every year fits with Rishi Sunak’s recent decision to delay some net zero targets, as he pushed back the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales from 2030 to 2035.
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