ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners are considering taking legal action against the Government over its plans to issue more than 100 new oil and gas drilling licences.

Greenpeace has said it considers the Government’s actions “unlawful” and that instead of securing the UK’s “energy security” the plans threaten it.

The Conservatives announced on Thursday it supported a new oil and gas licensing round, expected to be launched in October.

Along with lifting a dfracking ban in England, the move will help the UK become less reliant on foreign energy sources and aid the Prime Minister’s ambition for the country to become a net exporter of energy, the Government said.

'Simply not serious about climate' 

The announcement was met with fury from environmentalists who said the Government was “denying the reality of the climate emergency” and claimed the move would do “nothing to lower bills here in the UK”.

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Philip Evans, an energy security campaigner with Greenpeace, said: “The government is pandering to outdated, fringe fossil fuel interests.

"A government that fails to launch an emergency nationwide programme to make homes energy secure is simply not serious about energy security, lowering bills, or tackling the climate crisis. 

“Meanwhile Europe strides ahead with tangible solutions like home insulation, heat-pumps, solar panels, and windfall taxes to finance these urgent fixes. 

“New fossil fuel licences are the opposite of energy security. We believe this licensing round is unlawful and we’ll be looking at taking legal action.”

Checkpoint 'charade'

The Government has said new licenses have passed their “climate compatibility checkpoint” tests, which they claim allow new fossil fuel projects to go ahead while remaining consistent with official net zero targets.

But the measure is “meaningless”, according to climate group Uplift, while Friends of the Earth Scotland has called it a “worthless charade”.

Campaigner Freya Aitchison said: “There can be no climate compatible new oil and gas. It is a deeply cynical attempt to provide cover for reckless plans to expand the very industry that is fuelling both the climate and the cost-of-living crises.”

She also called on the Scottish Government to “stand up to these reckless plans”.

Scottish Energy Secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs on Wednesday Holyrood was effectively powerless to frustrate the Government’s plans, as it is able to do with nuclear and fracking through the planning system.

In a statement, Uplift claimed that the checkpoint measure would not necessarily require ministers to reject a proposed project even if the emissions predictions for it were “astronomical”.

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The statement added: “Take the Rosebank oil field, the UK’s largest undeveloped field, which is now up for approval.

"Burning Rosebank’s oil and gas would create more CO2 than the combined CO2 emissions of all 28 low-income countries in the world, yet the so-called climate compatibility test will have nothing to say on this.

“These plans to boost UK energy security with more domestic gas production also need a huge reality check.

"No amount of ideologically-driven, political will can change geology: after nearly 50 years of North Sea drilling, we’ve burned most of the UK’s gas, and most of what’s left is oil, 80% of which we export.

"Around 200 new drilling licences have been issued in the last eight years, but barely a handful of these are producing any oil and gas today.”

The UK Government was approached for comment.