Chris Packham has declared Rishi Sunak’s decision to green light new oil drilling in the North Sea as “no less than an act of war against life on earth”.
The BBC presenter and outspoken environmental campaigner has previously joined protests outside Westminster against the proposed Rosebank oil field.
But the site, one of the largest untapped natural resources in UK waters, has now been granted development and production consent by the UK Government’s regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).
In a post today on X, previously known as Twitter, an outraged Mr Packham shared the news the oil field had been given the go-ahead and wrote: “This is no less than an act of war against life on earth…”
Mr Packham has been joined by other environmental campaigners, including Friends of the Earth and Swedish green activist Greta Thunberg, who have also voiced strong opposition to the development.
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s oil and gas campaigner Freya Aitchison said it was a “disgraceful decision” and showed the “UK Government’s climate denial”.
But the Government said the move would create hundreds of jobs and contribute billions of pounds to the economy.
The Rosebank field, which lies north-west of Shetland and contains up to 350 million barrels of oil, is currently one of the largest untapped discoveries in UK waters.
Rosebank could produce 69,000 barrels of oil per day, about 8 percent of the UK’s projected daily output between 2026 and 2030, and could also produce 44 million cubic feet of gas every day, according to its owners.
The companies behind oil field, Ithaca Energy and Equinor, said they had taken their final investment decision to invest 3.8 billion dollars (£3.1 billion) in the project in the first phase of development.
They said that the field is expected to start producing in 2026-2027, with the project supporting around 1,600 at its peak during construction, and long-term will supply around 450 jobs.
Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “We are investing in our world-leading renewable energy but, as the independent Climate Change Committee recognise, we will need oil and gas as part of that mix on the path to net zero and so it makes sense to use our own supplies from North Sea fields such as Rosebank.
“The jobs and billions of pounds this is worth to our economy will enable us to have greater energy independence, making us more secure against tyrants like (Vladimir) Putin.
“We will continue to back the UK’s oil and gas industry to underpin our energy security, grow our economy and help us deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner energy.”
Greenpeace UK climate campaigner Philip Evans said: “Rishi Sunak has proven once and for all that he puts the profits of oil companies above everyday people.
“We know that relying on fossil fuels is terrible for our energy security, the cost of living, and the climate. Our sky-high bills and recent extreme weather have shown us that.
“The ugly truth is that Sunak is pandering to vested interests, demonstrating the stranglehold the fossil fuel lobby has on Government decision making. And it’s bill payers and the climate that will suffer because of it.
“Why else would he make such a reckless decision?”
The UK Government said Rosebank has been subject to extensive scrutiny by the regulators, including undergoing a detailed environmental impact assessment process and a period of public consultation before approval was granted.
It said that all new projects, including Rosebank, will be in line with the natural decline of the North Sea basin.