ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have criticised the UK Government’s plans to boost nuclear power and drill for more oil and gas in the north sea as “unbelievably reckless”.

The UK government’s delayed energy security strategy - which is part of Boris Johnson’s plan to reduce reliance on international fossil fuels and help consumers - has been roundly rejected by those who say it does not take the climate crisis into account.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland, WWF, Greenpeace, and Uplift, who were behind the Stop Cambo campaign, have all pulled apart the plans and say they don’t line up with net zero targets.

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The UK Government said that the strategy will “accelerate the deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen, whilst supporting the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term”.

However, as multiple United Nations IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] reports have warned that any further exploration or production of oil and gas could push the planet towards climate catastrophe at a faster pace. The latest IPCC report released on Monday warned that it was “now or never” to limit global temperatures. 

Activists have said the government is instead “prioritising the interest” of the energy industry over consumers.

The UK’s press release on the energy strategy included 13 separate comments from industry leaders and CEO’s backing the plan, including Shell, SSE, EDF, Equinor and Rolls-Royce SMR. 

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FoE Scotland pointed out that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that “investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

Climate and Energy Campaigner Caroline Rance said: “It is unbelievably reckless for the UK Government to put its foot down on the accelerator and expand production of the oil and gas that is speeding us towards further climate devastation.

“By doubling down on oil and gas they are keeping us locked in an unaffordable and destructive energy system that is only delivering billions in profits for oil companies whilst millions of people are forced to choose between heating and eating.

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“There is a massive gaping hole where there should have been energy efficiency measures to improve people’s homes to make them warmer, greener and cut their bills.”

Rance added that while the announcement on offshore wind was a “positive step” it was “fatally undermined” by the oil and gas expansion. 

The campaigner added that nuclear creates a “toxic legacy”, and called on the Scottish Government, which is due to produce its own energy strategy, to commit to phasing out fossil fuels and focus on renewables instead. 

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Tessa Khan (above), Director of Uplift, a key organiser in the Stop Cambo campaign, said that the strategy was a “betrayal” of families struggling to cope with rising energy bills. 

She said: “Instead of supporting them with a drive to insulate homes and boost our access to cheap, clean renewable energy, the Government has sided with oil and gas companies, who offer no solutions to our energy affordability crisis.

"Instead, those companies are making billions in profit, giving their shareholders a pay-day, and failing to invest in the energy transition we need. 

“The fact that this Strategy has been published just days after the IPCC made it clear that already-planned fossil fuel projects will take us past safe climate limits makes it all the more galling. 

“Right now we need a real plan to help people across the country access safe, affordable energy and instead the Government has added fuel to the fire.”

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Fabrice Leveque, WWF Scotland Climate and Energy Policy Manager, said: “This week’s IPCC report made it abundantly clear that if we are to keep our planet within a safe temperature, we have to sever our costly relationship with fossil fuels.

"The UK Government’s energy strategy, whilst containing warm words on the role of decarbonisation, and some welcome moves to increase offshore wind and solar deployment, is a missed opportunity to accelerate the transition to a safer, cleaner, cheaper, future.

“The best way to help with people’s increasing energy bills is to help them reduce the amount of energy they have to use in the first place.

"With Scotland’s cold winters, the more we can better insulate people’s homes and reduce their energy use the better, and so this strategy is a huge missed opportunity to give households the support that they need to do that.

%image('13655341', type="article-full", alt="Extinction Rebellion protestors outside of Holyrood on April 1")

"Better insulation can be done quickly, will cut carbon emissions and our exposure to global energy prices and will create new jobs.

“New licensing rounds in the North Sea, however, directly contravene the clear message that developing new oil and gas fields is incompatible with net zero, and will do nothing to ease energy prices in the UK given the global nature of these markets and the time taken to develop new fields. It’s more crucial that we cut demand for fossil fuels by reducing energy waste and switching to electric heating and vehicles.

"The climate crisis is an emergency – but the UK Government’s energy strategy represents a missed opportunity to meet the challenge.”

Greenpeace also opposed the plans, saying that the UK had proposed "slow solutions" and that they were "dishing out rewards" to the nuclear and oil and gas industry. 

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STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer (above) said: “This is a UK energy strategy entirely lacking in strategic focus. 

“The immediate focus should be alleviating the crisis of workers across Scotland making the calculated decision between having a hot meal or a warm home. Energy suppliers have profited during a crisis.

"We cannot allow that to go unchallenged and we’re reiterating our call for an urgent windfall tax, redistributed and put directly into the pockets of hard-pressed people across the country.

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“If the UK Government are serious in tackling the climate emergency this strategy would set out how they intend to retain and increase unionised, well-paid jobs within the energy sector.

"This will require far higher levels of government investment than it currently plans, investment which should focus on generation, supply chain, retrofitting and development of new technologies.

“Workers cannot be caught in the crossfire whilst government ministers seek to prioritise the energy giants over ordinary people.”

It comes as Scottish energy secretary Michael Matheson said it was “completely unacceptable” the UK Government did not consult with the Scottish Government over the proposals, and that he had not seen an advanced copy of the plans. 

The Department of Business, Energy, Industry and Development (BEIS) has been contacted for comment.