THE UK Government has come under fire for green-lighting a new oil and gas field in the North Sea despite commitments to limiting global warming.

The Abigail oil and gas field is located off the east coast of Scotland and contains the equivalent of 5.5 million barrels of oil.

Ithaca Energy was given consent to extract oil and gas from the field on January 19 and environmental campaigners have hit out at the decision from the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) to grant permission just months after making a commitment to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

READ MORE: Plans for 29 new North Sea oil and gas projects in pipeline despite Cambo delay

The OGA is a UK Government company that assists Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng in meeting net-zero targets.

The UK Government has a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and a further commitment to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035.

Boris Johnson has also previously said that all of the UK's electricity will come from clean energy sources by 2035.

Analysis from independent energy research firm Rystad Energy actually showed that the Abigail field could prove to be a loss for the taxpayer.

The National: Tessa Khan is director of the environmental campaign group UpliftTessa Khan is director of the environmental campaign group Uplift

Tessa Khan, director of the Uplift campaign group that pushes for transition to renewable energy, said that the "only winners" in the Abigail project is the oil firm behind it.

Khan said: "Why is the Government sanctioning an oil and gas development that will see little to no benefit for UK energy customers or taxpayers, which only worsens the climate crisis, and where the only winners are the oil firm behind the project. If we carry on down this path, we’ll be dependent on a very expensive, highly polluting energy source for decades longer than is necessary. 

“A serious response from the Government to both unaffordable energy bills and the climate crisis, would see all this investment steered into cheaper UK renewables. The Government needs to stop rolling over for the oil and gas industry, stop dishing out licences, and get on with making sure people have access to affordable, renewable energy.”

READ MORE: Where will profits from the 17 new Scottish windfarm sites go?

The approval of the Abigail field comes as the UK Government is consulting on plans to license more North Sea Fields with a new test of meeting a "climate compatibility checkpoint” to ensure new licences are in line with UK climate objectives.

Caroline Rance (below), climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Once again we see the UK Government saying one thing and doing another, having reaffirmed their commitment to ‘keeping 1.5C alive’ at COP26 and just weeks later approving new oil and gas fields.

The National: Caroline Rance is a climate and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth ScotlandCaroline Rance is a climate and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland

"Meantime, it is pressing ahead with a farcical plan which would allow continued oil and gas production for years to come. The Government's so-called climate test is designed to set the bar so low that the oil industry gets to lock us into their climate-wrecking business as usual for decades to come. 

"The simple fact is that there is no such thing as a climate-compatible oil and gas development. Climate science is crystal clear that burning fossil fuels is the key driver of the climate crisis and that there can be no new oil and gas fields anywhere in the world if we’re to limit warming to the 1.5C limit. 

"The UK Government should immediately stop granting permission for new oil and gas projects, and instead begin a managed phase-out of existing fields while ensuring a just transition for affected workers and communities. Every new field harms the ability of workers to transition by continuing to channel public money and support into fossil fuels instead of into increasing renewables, creating new jobs and supporting workers to retrain."

READ MORE: Cambo oil field timeline: How did row develop before Shell exit?

Scottish Greens climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP said: “The UK Government has clearly learned nothing from COP26 or the debacle around Cambo, and is continuing to back new exploration and expansion in oil and gas.

"It’s long past time this reckless Tory government listened to the International Energy Agency, the UN General Secretary and public opinion and started investing in the renewable energy systems we need to move beyond fossil fuels, as we are doing in Scotland.”

In response to the outcry, a spokesperson for OGA said: “Our analysis shows that Abigail will be economic and won’t change the UK’s position as a net importer of oil and gas.

“The OGA will continuously hold the operator to account on emissions reductions as part of our stewardship.”

The authority said oil and gas currently meet 75% of UK energy demand and new field developments, such as Abigail, are already factored into production aims, which say the country is expected to be a net importer to 2050.

It said reducing domestic production would only increase the country’s reliance on imports, often with a larger carbon footprint, so while demand lasts, the industry should focus on local resources.

READ MORE: 'Inoperable ulcer': Council row erupts over offensive 'mud throwing' in castle battle

The OGA spokesperson also pointed to the North Sea Transition Deal which is said to encourage the sector to reduce emissions from offshore operations by 10% by 2025, 25% by 2027, and 50% by 2030, and to net zero by 2050.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “While we are working hard to drive down demand for fossil fuels, there will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas over the coming years as we transition to lower carbon, more secure forms of energy generated in this country.

“We cannot turn off our domestic source of gas overnight, as recognised by the independent Climate Change Committee. That would put energy security, British jobs and industries at risk, and we would be even more dependent on foreign imports.”