UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to visit Aberdeenshire on Monday to announce multimillion-pound funding for the Acorn carbon capture and storage project in Scotland. The project aims to capture carbon dioxide emissions from across the country for offshore storage in the North Sea and is said to create up to 21,000 jobs.
The UK government is aiming to support the establishment of two carbon capture and storage clusters by the mid-2020s and a further two by 2030. Through them, it aims to capture 20-30 million metric tons of CO2 per year, part of the UK’s strategy of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
Sunak has confirmed that the Acorn carbon capture project in north-east Scotland and Viking in the Humber had been chosen as the third and fourth carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) clusters in the UK, to be developed by 2030.
At the same time, Sunak and the North Sea Transition Authority also announced a joint commitment to undertake future oil and gas licensing rounds, although they will continue to be subject to a climate compatibility test.
The government wants to adopt a more flexible application process as licenses could be offered near to currently licensed areas to unlock reserves that can be brought online faster.
According to Sunak, the development of British oil and gas production would help to break dependence on regimes such as Russia.
“We have all witnessed how Putin has manipulated and weaponized energy – disrupting supply and stalling growth in countries around the world… Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we bolster our energy security and capitalize on that independence to deliver more affordable, clean energy to British homes and businesses,” explained Mr Sunak.
“We’re choosing to power up Britain from Britain and invest in crucial industries such as carbon capture and storage, rather than depend on more carbon intensive gas imports from overseas – which will support thousands of skilled jobs, unlock further opportunities for green technologies, and grow the economy,” he added.
The decision has been met with criticism. The Scottish National Party, for example, remains skeptical about how much of an impact the announcement will have both on climate change and on jobs in the North East of Scotland.
Greenpeace also keeps claiming that carbon capture and storage is being used as an excuse to carry on burning fossil fuels rather than accelerate the switch to renewables.
“Only Labour has a plan to cut bills, create jobs and deliver British energy security once and for all,” commented Edward Miliband, serving as Shadow Secretary of State for Climate Change and Net Zero since 2021.
In the face of criticism, Sunak insists that he is committed to achieving the 2050 net zero emissions target but in a “pragmatic and proportionate way”, signaling his intention to draw a dividing line between the Conservatives who want him to go further into supporting the oil and gas industry and Labour who pursue a more clear and green approach on environmental issues.
“Carbon capture is a vital technology we need to invest in, but the UK Government is coming late to the table on this… I can’t help but feel this is a smokescreen – Rishi Sunak is making this announcement so he can make other announcements to appeal to his right wing that don’t believe in climate change and want to extract every last drop of oil,” commented on BBC Good Morning Scotland, Daniel Johnston MSP, Scottish Labour’s economy spokesman.