9

Dec

2021

Shell withdraws from Cambo oil field after pressure from campaigners

 

As an official partner of the Stop Cambo campaign, Operation Noah celebrates the news that Shell has withdrawn from the Cambo oil development off the west coast of Scotland, following months of sustained pressure from climate and divestment campaigners.

Prior to Shell’s announcement, over 70 Church of England clergy and bishops, including Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, had added their names to an open letter to the Church of England’s Pensions Board, expressing serious concerns about Shell’s plans for the Cambo oil field. The letter stated that the Church of England Pensions Board, which invests in Shell, ‘must make it clear to Shell that swift and resolute action will follow if it does not immediately abandon plans for the Cambo oil field’.

While Shell has concluded that the project is not financially viable, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that there can be no new fossil fuel developments if the world is to limit warming to 1.5°C.

The UK Government is now under pressure to officially reject the Cambo oil field. Majority stakeholder in the Cambo oil field, Siccar Point Energy, has expressed its desire to move forward with the project with new backers. If it were to go ahead, the Cambo oil field would produce up to 170 million barrels of oil in the first phase alone, with emissions the equivalent of the annual carbon pollution from 18 coal-fired power stations

According to researchers from Uplift, which is coordinating the Stop Cambo campaign, North Sea oil and gas companies plan to extract at least another 1.7 billion barrels of oil from new fields before 2050. The UK Government is being urged by fossil fuel companies to approve 18 new oil and gas projects over the coming years. Shell is still planning to pursue other new oil and gas projects in UK waters, including the ‘Solar’ oil field and the ‘Jaws’ exploration well.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: ‘It is wonderful news that Shell has withdrawn from the Cambo oil field, following pressure from campaigners. Following COP26, Churches need to ensure that the UK Government leads by example and rejects the Cambo oil field once and for all. There can be no new oil, gas or coal developments if we are to limit global average temperature rises to 1.5°C. The world urgently needs a fair and fast transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which ensures climate justice and will create green jobs for years to come.’

Tessa Khan, Director of Uplift, said: ‘This is the end for Cambo. Shell has seen the writing on the wall. Its statement makes it clear that the economics are against new oil and gas developments. But the widespread public and political pressure is what’s made Cambo untenable. This is a message to the UK government that there is no case for new oil and gas. It must put Cambo out of its misery and reject it now.’

Photo credit: Colin Hattersley / Friends of the Earth Scotland

In May 2021, the Church of England’s Pensions Board voted in favour of Shell’s energy transition plan, which includes increasing gas production by 20% in the next few years and involves plans to seek out new fossil fuel reserves for years to come.

Shell is also under significant pressure to stop seismic testing off the coast of South Africa. More than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for an end to the seismic testing and more than 30 petrol stations are now boycotting Shell. In September, more than 20 Anglican bishops in Southern Africa called for an immediate halt to gas and oil exploration in Africa.

Shell acknowledged the impact of the divestment movement on its ability to raise finance for new fossil fuel projects. Shell’s 2018 annual report stated: ‘Some groups are pressuring certain investors to divest their investments in fossil fuel companies. If this were to continue, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of our securities and our ability to access capital markets.’

Most UK Churches, including the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church with £1.3 billion of assets under management, have fully divested from fossil fuel companies. An increasing number of Church of England dioceses are joining them, including the Diocese of Durham, the Diocese of Oxford and the Diocese of Norwich.

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