'It Pains Me': Tory MP Who Led UK's COP26 Tears Into Oil And Gas Bill

Backbencher Alok Sharma demolished the Conservative legislation.
Alok Sharma in the Commons on Monday
Alok Sharma in the Commons on Monday

Alok Sharma used one key phrase to gently express his frustration with his Conservative colleagues about the oil and gas bill on Monday.

Speaking yesterday in the Commons, Sharma – who was the COP26 president when the UK hosted the international climate conference in 2021 – repeatedly claimed it “pains me to say” why he thinks the bill is so flawed.

The bill will makes it the North Sea Transition Authority’s duty to run annual applications for new offshore oil and gas licenses.

But, before announcing that he would not be backing the legislation, the backbencher said: “We have a bill before this house, the sole purpose of which is to double down on granting more oil and gas production licences.

“I do not believe, and it pains me to say this, that this bill will advance that commitment to transition away from fossil fuels.”

He noted that he does not think “climate vulnerable nations” will think “this is consistent with the pledge we along with every other nation made in Dubai.”

This is a reference to the COP28 agreement made in the UAE last December to help climate resilience in vulnerable countries.

Sharma then moved onto the “substance of the bill”, adding that he is “really sorry to say this” and – saying once again that it “pains me to say this” – but he thinks the bill is a “distraction”.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he added.

Touching on the climate compatibility checkpoints for the companies looking for permission to drill, he said: “I have to say this, that I think they have been designed for the computer to always say yes to new oil and gas licenses.”

He said that “sadly” he thinks the bill “reinforces the unfortunate perception about the UK rowing back from climate action”.

“It does make our international partners question the seriousness with which we take our international commitments,” Sharma added.

The backbencher said: “I say that it pains me to say this, because I know the government has been coming forward under this secretary of state, with commitments to try and tackle climate change, and try and deliver on a clean energy bill.”

He also noted that oil and gas extraction from the North Sea will not actually lower energy bills in the UK – that’s an internationally set price for the commodity.

Later on, Sharma even pointed to the government’s claim that data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows we will need new oil and gas in the years ahead.

He argued: “I respectfully say this is not the same as saying new licenses should be granted.”

“We really shouldn’t need any more wake-up calls to put aside the distractions and act with the urgency this situation demands,” he summarised.

The bill passed its second reading on Monday with 293 votes to 311 against. No Tory MP voted against it, but Sharma abstained.

Sharma’s enthusiasm for green policies has been well-documented over years. He made headlines when he teared up at COP26 after countries watered down promises to “phase out” coal power to “phase down”.

He told the crowds he was “deeply sorry” for the impact that would have on vulnerable nations.


What's Hot