Why #StopCambo?

For a liveable planet, we can't allow any new oil, gas and coal projects

170 million barrels of oil = emissions equivalent to running 18 coal-fired power stations for a year

Cambo’s owners – oil giant Shell and Siccar Point Energy – had planned to extract up to 170 million barrels of oil in the first phase alone. This would have generated emissions equivalent to the annual carbon pollution from 18 coal-fired power stations.

The Cambo field was expected to operate until 2050, the date by which our government has said the UK would reach ‘net zero’ (this is when the amount of greenhouse gas produced is equal to the amount removed from the atmosphere). But Cambo is just the beginning. 

Cambo is one of many North Sea oil and gas projects waiting for government approval. Just two of these proposed developments, Rosebank and Tolmount East, would produce an additional 500 million barrels of oil. In total, the 18 new projects in the pipeline have the potential to extract more than 1.7 billion barrels of oil.

This much new oil will blow us past our safe climate limits. 

The issue of the Cambo oil field overshadowed the UK’s role in hosting last year's COP 26 climate talks in Glasgow.

In November 2021, the eyes of the world turned to the UK as the hosts of the UN climate talks in Glasgow. If Cambo had been approved, it would have undermined any climate pledges from the UK government. To stop this, we appeared at COP 26 events and in the media, and joined thousands of demonstrators in the streets of Glasgow to demand climate justice. In December, Shell withdrew, and development of the Cambo oil field was put on pause.

Stopping Cambo was a powerful demonstration of grassroots action, but the future of Cambo, and of the other 46 sites up for approval, remains uncertain. As such, we will continue to demand that the UK government blocks the development of new oil and gas fields, and that it follows the advice of scientists and of communities at the frontline of climate breakdown.

"If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year."

If we want a liveable climate – meaning temperatures rise no more than 1.5°C – there can be no new investment in oil, gas or coal. A safe climate means no Cambo.

Earlier last year, the head of the influential International Energy Agency, Dr Fatih Birol, warned: "If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year."

When the latest climate assessment by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released last summer, UN chief, António Guterres, called it a “code red for humanity” that should “sound a death knell for fossil fuels”.

Already, the amount of oil and gas in the UK’s existing fields will – if we burn it all – produce emissions greater than our share of what scientists say is safe for the planet. The world cannot afford to open new fossil fuel frontiers. For the UK, this starts with rejecting Cambo and the other North Sea fields. 

Boris Johnson must permanently reject Cambo and the other North Sea fields, and support a transition to clean energy that is fair to oil and gas workers and their communities. 

It’s time to end the UK government’s disastrous policy of 'maximising economic recovery' of oil & gas, which aims to squeeze every last profitable barrel of oil and gas out of the North Sea. It’s only profitable for companies, by the way, because billions of pounds of public money are spent subsidising the oil and gas industry.

What we need instead is for the government to seriously commit to creating clean energy jobs and to signal to investors that they should too: the UK could create three jobs in clean energy for every oil & gas job.

Oil and gas workers, their unions and communities should all be involved in deciding how this should happen. This is what is meant by a ‘just transition’: phasing out oil and gas and moving to clean energy so that people have time to adapt to the changes. Approving Cambo sends us in the opposite direction.

Contrary to what you might have heard, Cambo will bring few UK jobs, little tax benefit (as well as a potentially huge clean up bill) and most of its oil will be exported.

Contracts for construction and installation have been awarded to overseas firms, meaning the bulk of jobs will be outside of the UK. As part of a global oil market 80% of UK crude is currently exported, and so this field would not meaningfully meet domestic demand for oil.

The UK has created the most generous tax system in the world for oil and gas producers. In 2020, the UK was the only country in which Shell operates where the oil giant didn’t pay tax. Instead, the UK government paid Shell almost $100m.

Meanwhile, the complexity of the Cambo field and high cost of operating in the deep, choppy waters of the West of Shetland basin makes the project high risk. Similar developments have suffered from large cost overruns that have driven producers to bankruptcy. If this happens with Cambo, the UK government could be on the hook for the full clean up and decommissioning costs. 

And finally, 80% of UK crude oil – which is what Cambo contains – is currently exported and sold on the global market. Cambo’s oil has little to do with satisfying our domestic demand for oil.

A reason for hope

We know why we had to stop Cambo: it was a climate disaster in the making that would have seen us shoot past safe climate limits. And our success means that #StopCambo offers a blueprint for how to stop new oil and gas developments.

In just a few short months, we turned a little known, offshore project into a movement-wide campaign to end new oil and gas production in the UK. Together, we brought the plans for Cambo to a screeching halt. Neither the oil and gas industry, nor the UK government expected this. 

From occupying UK government offices in Edinburgh, to challenging the CEO of Shell on-stage at COP, and delivering a petition on behalf of 80,000 people to Downing Street, we’ve proved we’re not going away.

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