Bishops call on Chancellor to rule out new UK oil and gas developments

A former archbishop of Canterbury is among 200 church leaders to have pushed for there to be no spring statement support for fossil fuel investment.

21 March 2022

More than 50 bishops have urged the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to rule out support for new oil and gas developments as Britain looks to diverge from using Russian energy.

Former archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams is among a host of senior Anglican and Catholic clerics to have written to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak ahead of Wednesday’s spring statement.

They are calling for there to be “no support for new oil and gas developments” as part of the Chancellor’s fiscal announcement.

Mr Johnson told the Conservative Party spring conference in Blackpool on Saturday that his administration planned to “make better use of our own naturally occurring hydrocarbons”.

Following the remarks, Downing Street said exchequer secretary Helen Whately has been tasked with chairing a forum with oil and gas lenders to discuss North Sea oil and gas investment conditions.

But senior bishops from the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, along with other Christian leaders, have united to lobby the top two in Government on the need to move away from fossil fuel dependency.

In their letter, the bishops and clerics called on Mr Johnson’s administration to “ensure a rapid shift from fossil fuels to clean energy” in the upcoming spring statement and the energy security strategy, which is due to be published this month.

They praised the UK Government decision to ban Russian oil imports by the end of year, which they described as “fuelling the catastrophic war in Ukraine”.

But Dr Williams and more than 200 other religious leaders said the UK had a “duty to demonstrate global leadership on the climate crisis” following its hosting of the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow last year, and to invest further in renewable energy sources.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have been lobbied by church leaders before the spring statement
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have been lobbied by church leaders before the spring statement (Ben Stansall/PA)

They wrote: “The spring statement must include no support for new oil and gas developments.

“The International Energy Agency has stated that there can be no new fossil fuel developments if we are to limit global heating to 1.5C.

“New oil and gas production will not deliver lower energy bills for families facing fuel poverty and will have no impact on energy supply for years.”

As well as Lord Williams of Oystermouth, other letter signatories include the lead environment bishops for the Church of England, Bishop of Norwich Graham Usher, the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Bishop of Salford John Arnold, and the Catholic Church in Scotland, Archbishop of Glasgow William Nolan.

They are joined by church leaders from across the country, including members of the Methodist, Scottish Episcopal, Church in Wales, United Reformed, Baptist Union and Quaker congregations.

In the letter, the bishops and other church leaders express their support for a “windfall tax on oil and gas companies” as a way of tackling the cost of living crisis – a policy similar to that being pushed by the Labour Party.

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