Delivering a sustainable future

FOLLOWING the publication of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report in May 2019, the UK Parliament declared a ‘climate change emergency’. Although there is no single definition of what a climate change emergency actually means, it has become a catalyst for demanding immediate action and policy changes across the country to mitigate the causes of climate change. Governments responded by declaring targets to deliver ‘net zero’ greenhouse gases by 2050 (2045 in Scotland).

So how can the oil and gas sector react to this climate change emergency in a credible and impactful way? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. Delivering the net zero target for the UK will inevitably mean a radical overhaul of the way we all live and work today, touching every part of society. For the oil and gas industry to keep its ‘social license to operate’ and to have a sustainable future, it will need to be a major part of the solution. It will need to become a net zero greenhouse gas offshore basin in the UK and to be a key contributor in ensuring the country meets its net zero targets.

Even though the UK currently only represents c. 1% of global CO2 emissions, around 1% of the world’s oil and gas production and roughly 1% of the world’s population, the UK and the UK’s oil and gas industry can play a leading role in the response to the climate change emergency. The sector has the skills, assets and capabilities, along with a proven track-record of developing, implementing and managing large and complex projects, to be a critical part of the solution. Combined with offshore electrification, carbon capture utilisation and storage and a leveraging of the potential benefits associated with hydrogen generation, the industry has a real opportunity of delivering a net zero basin by 2050 or earlier.

Although there are increasingly loud and influential voices arguing that the best way to deliver the ‘net zero agenda’ is by shutting down the oil and gas industry with immediate effect, we must demand a more informed debate. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a shared destination among the UK and devolved governments, policy makers, industry and many others in terms of delivering the net zero outcome.

During Offshore Europe, OGUK launched Roadmap 2035. The roadmap sets out how the industry is and can contribute to the net zero agenda in the context of the requirement for energy security and energy sovereignty. Roadmap 2035 will provide a constructive framework to facilitate discussion and sharing of best practices to deliver this shared destination. However, it will require the careful balancing of societal expectations with the UK’s ability to adjust to the far-reaching changes required to meet the net zero targets. Societal acceptance of the rate of this change will be key to how fast the UK and the UK’s energy sector will have to move to deliver on net zero.

Paul de Leeuw RGU

Paul de Leeuw RGU