THE UK Government’s plans to mandate annual oil and gas licensing in the North Sea has been slammed as a “pipedream” by furious climate campaigners.

The move was unveiled as part of the King’s Speech on Tuesday, with the UK Government claiming it will reduce dependency on “hostile foreign regimes”, provide job security for workers in the industry and help with the transition to net zero in 2050.

But, the Energy Secretary already admitted that the plan will “not necessarily” bring down bills for UK households.

And now, environmental campaigners have accused the Prime Minister of “playing politics” with energy policy and said the Tories are determined to extract “every last drop” of oil from the North Sea.

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They have also criticised the impact this will have on the climate, after repeated warnings from the United Nations (UN), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and scientists, that further exploration and production of fossil fuels should be stopped to reduce global warming.

Caroline Rance (below), Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland’s climate and energy campaigner, said the move was a “desperate attempt” to speed up oil and gas licensing and would increase climate breakdown and said the Tories are “acting in the service of fossil fuel giants”, who are repeatedly posting billions in profits.

“It’s a fallacy that new oil and gas will do anything for UK energy security, as all the oil extracted will be sold to the highest bidder on the international market,” she said.

“Looking for new oil and gas is committing the world to more frequent and more intense storms and devastating floods like those people have suffered with storms Babet and Ciarán in recent weeks.

The National: Caroline Rance, Friends of the Earth Scotland Climate and Energy Campaigner

“Every new oil field granted takes us further from the fair and fast transition to renewable energy that is needed by workers and the communities most affected.”

Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift, said the UK Government was trying to sell the UK Government a “pipedream” and more licensing will do “vanishingly little” for energy security in the UK.

“The fact is the UK has burned most of its gas, and most of what’s left in the North Sea is oil, most of which we export,” she said.

“Thirteen years of new licensing under the Tories have produced a grand total of 16 days worth of extra gas and as the government states, producing it here doesn’t change the price we pay for it.”

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Khan added that the plans will do “nothing to help ordinary people” but instead add to fossil fuel companies' profits.

"Just as new licences won’t make any difference to bills or energy security, nor will they stem the decline in oil and gas jobs,” she added.

Jamie Livingstone (below), head of Oxfam Scotland, said the plan showed a “dangerous fixation” with fossil fuels that are inconsistent with climate science “and common sense”.

“Instead of obsessing over how to give greater confidence to those investing in the extraction of yet more oil and gas, we need to see our political leaders, both in Westminster and Holyrood, focus on how to quickly and fairly decarbonise our economy - funded by making the biggest and richest polluters pay for their damage while protecting the pockets of the poorest households,” he said.

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“Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference, and every delay in cleaning up our act costs lives.”

Meanwhile, independent climate change think tank E3G criticised the Tory government for being determined to drain every drop of oil from the North Sea.

Campaigns director Ed Matthew said: “If every other country with fossil fuel reserves followed suit, it would emit more planet-heating emissions than have occurred since the Industrial Revolution, which would cause catastrophic, runaway climate change.

“Poll after poll has shown that the vast majority of voters, including Conservatives, want ambitious action to tackle climate change and build a cheaper and more secure energy system based on renewables.

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“This legislation will do nothing to boost the government’s popularity but it will destroy the UK’s climate leadership credentials and undermine investment in the UK’s net zero transition.”

Ami McCarthy, Greenpeace UK’s political campaigner, added: “Instead of furthering the government’s frenzy for new oil and gas and trashing nature through deregulation, he should use the King’s Speech to introduce new bills on energy, planning, pollution and the Global Ocean Treaty.”

We told how the UK Government previously signed off 100 new licences for oil and gas exploration, sparking concern amongst climate campaigners.