The Prime Minister has been accused by climate activists of “pandering” to corporate interests as 27 new North Sea oil and gas licences have been granted.
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) said they have been awarded because there is potential to go into production more quickly.
Philip Evans, climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “UK voters want warmer homes, cheaper energy bills and a government that’s not afraid to take on the climate crisis.
“Instead they’re being ignored so Rishi Sunak can pander to corporate interests, with licences for fossil fuels that’ll make no difference to bills, do nothing for energy security, and produce yet more profits for dizzyingly wealthy companies like Shell.
“They profit while we get colder and poorer, and the UK turns into a nation that’s fuelling the climate crisis rather than helping to fix it.
“Greenpeace plans to fight these licences in the courtroom, and we’re mobilising voters to prioritise climate at the next election, because frankly we’re all sick of these backward-facing policies.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Giving the green light to dozens of new fossil fuel licences is nothing short of a climate crime.
“Since much of the oil and gas will be sold on global markets, it won’t improve the UK’s energy security and it won’t cut household energy bills either.
“When climate scientists have stated clearly that we can have no new oil and gas if we are to keep below the critical 1.5C temperature limit, this Government is flying in the face of those warnings and jeopardising a liveable planet for future generations.”
Meanwhile Jess Ralston, head of energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “With the Government failing on insulating homes, U-turning on rules that would cut the cost of living for renters in the worst properties, this is at best a distraction.
“The only real way to insulate the UK and homeowners from volatile gas prices is to help them use less.
“If the Government wants to help people with high energy bills and make the UK more energy-secure it would be boosting electric heat pumps further and taking the country back to a time when millions of upgrades were being made each year to homes.”
Stuart Payne, NSTA chief executive, said: “Ensuring that the UK has broad options for energy security is at the heart of our work and these licences were awarded in the expectation that the licensees will get down to work immediately.
“The NSTA will work with the licensees to make sure that where production can be achieved it happens as quickly as possible.”