Exclusive:Green Party 'disappointed' as Keir Starmer says he won't overturn Sunak's 'dangerous' new oil and gas licences

The Green Party has told NationalWorld Starmer could effectively stop the permits now, and his comments are "deeply disappointing"

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Climate action groups hoping Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer would overturn controversial new oil and gas licences if he takes the reins after the next general election are set to be sorely disappointed.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced last week that he planned to grant at least a hundred new fossil fuel exploration licences in the North Sea, in a bid to "boost British energy independence". His plans were immediately met with protest and widespread condemnation from climate campaigners and activists, who accused him of "pouring fuel on the fire", at the expense of the planet.

Greenpeace protesters were arrested after climbing onto Sunak's roof and draping his house in "oil-black fabric", a move which has seen the environment secretary order Defra to stop associating with them. Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer, on the other hand, called on his political rival Starmer to end the problem, by declaring he would overturn them if he was elected.

However, Starmer has shot down this notion, writing in The Times on Sunday (6 August) that "we won’t revoke any licences issued by this government because, unlike them, we take investor certainty and legal obligations seriously".

Keir Starmer has said he will not overturn Sunak's controversial new oil and gas licences (Image: NationalWorld/Getty)Keir Starmer has said he will not overturn Sunak's controversial new oil and gas licences (Image: NationalWorld/Getty)
Keir Starmer has said he will not overturn Sunak's controversial new oil and gas licences (Image: NationalWorld/Getty)

"But nor will we issue new licences to explore new fields," he added. "We know that new licences won’t boost energy security because the yield will be sold on the international markets. And we know 'maxing out' every last drop from the North Sea, the government’s new position, will accelerate the climate crisis."

Starmer also made a bid to distance himself from climate action group Just Stop Oil, saying that to "simply turn off the taps in the North Sea" would create the same chaos for working people that the activists did on the roads. "It’s contemptible."

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay told NationalWorld “Keir Starmer is absolutely right to point to government inaction as the reason why the UK is so vulnerable to volatile fossil fuel markets".

"It is clear that we need huge investment in renewables and energy efficiency which we’re just not seeing under the Conservatives," he continued. “However, it is deeply disappointing that he is not willing to say he would revoke the 100 new climate-wrecking oil and gas licences the Prime Minister announced again last week."

Mr Ramsay said Labour could still effectively stop the new permits if they said they would reverse these licences, which would signal that any investment in new oil and gas would be financially unviable.

“Unfortunately, Labour appear to be bottling the influence they currently have to stop this dangerous decision which will make life harder for everyone through higher bills and a worsening climate," he said.

“The only way to effectively and sustainably reduce people’s bills, tackle the climate crisis and create millions of jobs for the future is to invest in insulating people’s homes, invest in a rapid rollout of electric heat pumps, invest in cheap and accessible public transport, and massively ramp up renewable energy.”

A Just Stop Oil spokesperson told NationalWorld: "We can only hope that if Keir Starmer becomes our next Prime Minister that he will have a better grasp of the detail he has at present.

"Just Stop Oil is not calling for an immediate end to all UK oil and gas, but for a halt to granting new licences and consents. This is the same policy that Labour has signed up to," they added. "However, Labour's failure to commit to revoking Rishi Sunak's planned 100 new oil and gas licences should they come to power, means that their pledge to end new oil and gas is meaningless."

That made them "indistinguishable" from the Conservatives, the spokesperson said. "It is obvious that our politicians and corporations have no intention of acting in accordance with the fundamental interests of either our young people or the country as a whole. This means that civil resistance is no longer an option, it is a necessity."

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