By Kate Benson

The UK government has once again proved their priorities lie with corporations and the profit they make, rather than with people and our planet. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that there must be no new oil and gas for a liveable future,  yet on the 1st of June Kwasi Kwarteng, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced the approval of the Jackdaw gas field. 

Based in the North Sea, it could potentially release the  equivalent of half the annual emissions of Scotland, or more than the annual emissions of Ghana.  For the sake of our planet, this plan must be stopped.

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The approval happened despite strong opposition from activists, MPs and MSPs, and following initial rejection by the regulator due to it not being in line with the UK’s climate goals. The Government clearly thought they could get away with it by releasing the news right before the bank holiday for the state driven Jubilee celebration (which in itself was a gross misuse of millions of pounds of public funds) to celebrate a monarchy who have caused so much harm, which may be a whole other article, but is definitely relevant).  

Of course, they were wrong about it going unnoticed. There were rallies in London, Edinburgh and Newcastle the 2 days following, with activists in Edinburgh throwing red paint on government offices to illustrate blood on the government’s hands. All the while they are trying to suppress direct action against them by putting through grotesque bills including the arguably authoritarian Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill, and now the Public Order Bill. They know this action is working, and they are trying to stop it. That is why we must keep going.  

Lies of energy security are being spouted by the government as justification for this gas field. We are in a cost of living scandal happening as a result of uncertainty due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, but also created through the excessive profits of fossil fuel companies, and the UK government’s refusal to tax them. 

 Even the windfall tax on oil giants introduced earlier this year by Rishi Sunak, a result of public pressure, is nowhere near good enough. It results in large tax breaks for the fossil fuel companies, and an Energy Profit Levy giving £6 billion in subsidies to them.  Shell owns the gas and can export it where it likes.  Therefore, we end up paying for this gas field twice; once through the subsidies that the government gives to Shell for the gas field, and then again to buy the gas when it has been extracted. 

Climate change is a side effect of deep-rooted inequality, caused by Global North countries including the UK through colonialism and capitalism. The rise of capitalism was only possible through the colonisation of Global South countries, where people and land were exploited enabling the industrialisation of countries in the Global North. Elites also used western philosophers to change the way people viewed nature, going from humans being part of nature to viewing it as an object that can be used for human benefit. 

The impacts of the climate crisis are disproportionately felt in the Global South, who have not only contributed least to it, but are on the frontlines actively fighting against those who exploit and damage people and the land. People in the Global South are consistently ignored, for example during COP (the annual UN Climate Change Conference). These have happened for 26 years and Global North countries exclude Indigenous people and ignore people in the Global South who have the solutions we need, including at COP 26.

The UK commitments at COP 26 were abysmal; a lot of agreement to do something in the future, with no solid action taken. It was agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies (which as we discussed above, is not currently happening). There was a plan to pledge to further cut emissions to keep in line with 1.5 degrees celsius; but at current trajectories following UK policies – this will not be anywhere near being met. A plan to phase out coal (but not oil and gas), and here we are now with the UK approving the Jackdaw gas field. It is clear that the UK Government is not serious about any pledges they make to meet the 1.5c target. 

The UK government must stop Jackdaw immediately, and stop all new oil and gas. They pretend it is not possible, however Sweden has literally just done exactly that; they have announced no new oil, gas or coal licensing from 1 July this year. The UK must undergo a just transition, for example the Green New Deal; a 10 year plan for decarbonisation with worker justice fully incorporated.

They cannot continue contributing to the climate crisis which is already causing so much damage. A ‘green’ transition without justice incorporated is unacceptable – even if we bring everything to net zero but continue the same structures which harm so many people, the damage will continue. If we just switch all fossil fuel run cars to electric vehicles and do nothing else, it will continue green colonialism, where metals for the vehicles are extracted and people are exploited in Global South countries the same way fossil fuels are. This is already happening.

For climate justice, the global economy cannot stay as it is; the whole system would have to change in order to save our planet.  Not only this, but a change in the way that we think is required, viewing ourselves as part of nature, not adjacent to it.. The Global North blocks meaningful action because they have the most power, and are not interested in making these changes because it does not benefit them. 

Global North countries including the UK must pay for the damages they have caused through climate reparations to countries in the Global South. This does not mean a one off payment, it means a series of initiatives involving resource transfer, financial assistance, technology expertise while simultaneously taking climate action for carbon free policies in their own countries, e.g the Green New Deal.

This includes cancellation of debts which were caused by structural adjustment, a post-colonial effort by the IMF and World Bank to repress Global South countries through shredding their health systems and burdening them with unpayable debts, the interests of which makes them impossible to pay. Many countries have to pay these debts rather than spending on healthcare for example.

So, it’s a lot more complex than just stopping Jackdaw, but stopping Jackdaw is an absolutely essential part of climate justice.  You can help by joining  the campaign @StopCambo! Direct action works; the campaigning to stop the Cambo oil field last year resulted in the project being indefinitely paused after Shell pulled out. We can do this, we can Stop Jackdaw and reimagine the world in the best way possible.

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Last Update: July 13, 2022