Alok Sharma warns UK must explain how oil and gas exploration aligns with net-zero goals

Former Cabinet minister will negotiate on behalf of UK at Cop27 climate change summit in Egypt

Alok Sharma said the world was making climate progress but not fast enough. AFP
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The UK government must “explain and demonstrate” how its proposed new oil and gas exploration is in line with its climate commitments, veteran politician Alok Sharma has said.

Mr Sharma led last year’s milestone UN climate change summit in Glasgow, as president of Cop26.

Britain's new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed Mr Sharma will remain Cop26 president but will no longer be a minister or attend Cabinet meetings.

Mr Sharma spoke in Parliament on Tuesday to MPs before the latest UN climate summit, Cop27, which will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

He told MPs that he did not support fracking after being questioned about a series of policies that have angered environmentalists.

“In terms of new oil and gas licences, I think what the UK government, indeed every government, has to demonstrate is how are the policies that we're putting forward consistent with legally binding commitments on, in our case, getting to net zero by 2050, or indeed our near-term carbon budgets,” Mr Sharma said.

He added: “The onus is very much on the government to explain and demonstrate how any of these policies are indeed consistent with the legally binding commitments.”

Mr Sharma, who will negotiate on behalf of the UK at Cop27, also told MPs that the world was making climate progress with the deployment of renewables and electric vehicles but it is “frankly” not fast enough.

He said the International Energy Agency had put out a report that projects there would be a rise of less than 1 per cent in emissions globally, significantly less than last year, due to the “very fast deployment of renewables and electric vehicles across the world”.

“So there is progress, technology is being deployed, but frankly just not fast enough,” he said.

The number of coal projects was down significantly, financing for coal was much harder to secure and renewables accounted for 90 per cent of new additions in 2021, while countries are accelerating renewables following Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine.

“I think as a result of it, we will see the pace of renewables and installation accelerate faster than it would otherwise have done.”

He also suggested that “disappointing” backsliding by countries at the last G20 meeting, including “unfathomably” starting to question climate science, had started to reverse at the UN General Assembly.

In the UK, he said the government had strong commitments and Mr Sunak had committed to insulating millions of homes, but he said the Government needs to deliver on its net zero strategy and speed up the process of insulating homes.

Updated: October 25, 2022, 10:28 PM