Rosebank is the biggest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea. An application has been submitted for UK government approval to start developing the field however, with the window for meaningful action on climate shrinking, this is a project that cannot be allowed to go ahead.
If we want a liveable future, liberation for all, and thriving natural ecosystems, Rosebank’s oil needs to stay in the ground.
It’s time to join the campaign to #StopRosebank.
What is Rosebank
The Rosebank oil field dwarfs nearby Cambo, which drew protests around the UK in 2021 and has subsequently been paused. 90% of its reserves are oil, standing at nearly 500 million barrels. Approving an oil field this big in a year marked by intense heatwaves, record droughts destroying crops, and millions displaced by flooding in Pakistan, would be a colossal failure.
Burning Rosebank’s oil and gas would create more CO2 than the combined emissions of all 28 low-income countries in the world (as defined by the World Bank), including Uganda, Ethiopia and Mozambique. That’s a level of pollution that equals the combined annual emissions of 700 million people in the world’s poorest countries. Not only are these emissions unacceptable in a decade that needs to see dramatic decarbonisation as quickly as possible, but Global South countries are once again at the forefront of the worst impacts of climate breakdown while contributing the least to the crisis.
Equinor has shared plans to reduce emissions from Rosebank, ostensibly through using electricity rather than gas to extract oil from the ground. However, Equinor has also admitted this is technically challenging and comes with additional costs, which is slowing industry progress, and they may end up using electricity that otherwise could be used to power homes. Despite Equinor’s attempted PR, there’s no such thing as a low-carbon barrel of oil.
The UK government needs to take responsibility for its historic role in the climate crisis, using its relative wealth to support a rapid, just transition away from fossil fuels at home and abroad. This means no new oil and gas extraction, including Rosebank.
Why Rosebank won’t help us
There are multiple reasons why approving Rosebank is a terrible idea. Chief among them is that Rosebank’s oil will do nothing to lower fuel costs in the UK. Regardless of lines parrotted by politicians on ‘energy security’, like 80% of all North Sea oil, the majority of Rosebank’s reserves are likely to be exported for refining overseas, with only some then sold back to us at market price. The public will carry almost all the costs of developing Rosebank, while the fossil fuel giants who own the field, including Equinor, simply pocket the profits. This summer, the UK government gave the oil industry a new tax break, effectively forcing the UK public to hand Rosebank’s owners over half a billion to develop a field that won’t benefit UK citizens.
If Rosebank is approved, it will also make the UK poorer. If approved, Rosebank will be developed by oil and gas giant Equinor, which is majority-owned by the Norwegian government and holds a 40% stake in the field. Another 40% is owned by Canadian oil giant, Suncor Energy, known for its development of Canada’s dirty tar sands, with Israeli firm Ithaca Energy (Cambo’s new owner) holding a 20% stake. Because most of Equinor is owned by the Norweigan government, the public subsidy to develop Rosebank will see millions of pounds transferred from the UK to Norway.
Additionally, what Equinor have said on the ‘benefits’ of Rosebank are categorically untrue. Equinor claims that Rosebank will create 1600 jobs, but the real number is less than a third of this, with the rest temporary employment in the very short period during the peak of the project’s construction. Rosebank will in fact create just over 250 long-term jobs (with a further 200 jobs estimated to be indirectly created). Many more years of employment can be created through investment in renewables than fossil fuels.
Finally, Rosebank’s pipeline could endanger protected marine life. The pipelines needed to transport the small gas reserves in Rosebank would cut through a specially protected seabed, the Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt, potentially harming this delicate ecosystem and the extraordinary creatures that live within it. Rosebank could also cause harm to the numerous species of dolphins, whales and seabirds that thrive in these waters. Loud drilling, seismic blasting and construction at Rosebank will disturb multiple species, potentially changing migration and living patterns. If an oil spill was to occur during Rosebank’s operations, the potential impacts on marine ecosystems in the UK and those of neighbouring countries could be devastating. Thriving biodiversity is key to a liveable planet, especially when we understand so little of the innumerable benefits species around the world can present for humanity. Harming protected areas is not a way to achieve a better future.
A liveable future
The science is clear, we can’t have any new fossil fuel projects. Simply burning the fossil fuels in existing oil and gas fields will push us past safe climate limits. In the words of UN chief, Antonio Guterres, it’s now “moral and economic madness” to open up new oil and gas fields:
The truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels
1.5°C is deemed the safest temperature rise still possible for a liveable climate; we’re currently way off track globally to limit warming to these levels. Opening new fields such as Rosebank will push us closer to parts of our world becoming uninhabitable. While communities in the Global South live with the devastating impacts of a climate crisis they did very little to contribute to, the UK ranks among the top 5 highest emitting countries since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
This year the UK also saw heightened impacts of the climate crisis, with record temperatures, fires, droughts and crop damage. All of these consequences will get worse if we don’t halt the opening of new fossil fuel infrastructure and move towards renewable energy sources. Approving new fields such as Rosebank will only make us more dependent on expensive, polluting oil and gas for longer. Oil giants will carry on controlling our energy supply, locking us into dependency on expensive, polluting energy for decades longer than necessary. The prioritisation of profit over all else by fossil fuel companies holds us back; if we want a supply of affordable energy that doesn’t destroy our climate, we need to transition away from oil and gas as rapidly as possible.
New fields only delay this transition. Every new field, every Rosebank, delays a move away from oil and gas and to a more affordable renewable energy system. This transition should be led by oil and gas workers, their unions and impacted communities – not the oil and gas executives that have delayed real action for decades while continuing to rake in extortionate profits.
Done properly, with the right support and investment, the move away from fossil fuels could see three jobs in clean energy for every oil and gas job at risk. Only those currently making huge fossil fuel profits would lose out. Don’t believe the lies from Equinor or the government: there are no benefits to Rosebank for the planet, for people, or for our ecosystems. We can do better and we deserve better, so let’s make our voices heard.
It’s time to fight back, it’s time to build a better tomorrow together.
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