Denmark called time on its North Sea oil industry yesterday when the Regeringen in Copenhagen ratified a vote to put an end to all oil and gas exploration and extraction by 2050. It also cancelled the latest licensing round, the viability of which was already in the balance after Total withdrew from the tender process in October, in all probability because the energy giant could sense which way the wind was blowing.
It was indicative of the growing momentum to combat climate change that Denmark’s North Sea Oil announcement came just hours before Downing Street confirmed what had already been widely leaked – that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was committing the UK to cut CO2 emission levels to 68% of 1990 levels by 2030, a significant increase from the previous target of 53%. Denmark has already committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 70% within the next decade and has long been in the vanguard of the battle for sustainability.
In June, Denmark’s climate minister Dan Jørgensen unveiled plans to build the world’s first two energy islands, one in the North Sea and the other in the Baltic. The islands will act as hubs and allow the connection of several offshore wind farms. They are set to provide Denmark and its neighbours with 6 gigawatts of renewable wind power by 2030. “Denmark must be a green pioneer country, and we therefore stick to high climate ambitions – even if we are in the middle of a historic [coronavirus] crisis,” Jørgensen said.
Given the size and complexity of the British economy, it is perhaps understandable that the UK is not so far ahead in its thinking.The recent Net Zero North Sea report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) urged both Westminster and Holyrood to use the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to “show global leadership” and “reshape” the UK’s North Sea oil industry to achieve net zero. It also argued that the UK Government should take most of the responsibility for shouldering the overwhelming majority of the costs of the industry’s transition, since it had received the overwhelming majority of the oil and gas revenues.