Twitter LinkedIn

Reducing harms from oil and gas activities

In the first half of 2024, Wildlife and Countryside Link worked with other environmental organisations to highlight the damage that the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill would cause. The Bill would have required the North Sea Transition Authority (NTSA) to run an annual oil and gas licensing rounds, increasing oil and gas activity in UK seas and perpetuating the damage such activity inflicts on marine habitats and wildlife.

Lords report stage was due to take place in June 2024. Ahead of it Link and partners called for the Bill to be withdrawn, or at the every least amended to exclude Marine Protected Areas from oil and gas licensing rounds. On 22nd May, a General Election was called and the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill failed to progress in the remaining days of the Parliament. As a result, the Bill was lost and will not become law.

Whilst this is welcome, oil and gas licensing needs reform in the next Parliament. Existing licenses are causing significant damage to Marine Protected Areas, parts of the sea crucial to nature recovery, reducing the chances of the UK meeting its target to effectively protect 30% of the sea for nature by 2030. Any new licenses could exacerbate these harms, especially as it has now become clear that the existing process for assessing environmental harms from licensing proposals is not fit for purpose.

The Marine Protected Area cross party amendment to the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, tabled in the Lords in May 2024 by Baroness Willis of Summerton, Lord Randall, the Lord Bishop of Norwich and Lord Berkeley, should be brought forward as stand-alone legislation to prevent any new oil and gas exploration and extraction in MPAs. Such legislation could also look swiftly phase out existing oil and gas activities within MPAs, to boost recovery of the marine environment. Material prepared in support of the amendment but not circulated due to the failure of the Bill can be found below, including a letter that would have been sent to the Prime Minister signed by over 25 ocean scientists and campaigners. Link will continue to work with partners to secure better protections for MPAs from oil and gas in the next Parliament.