Image: courtesy of Gina Martin

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

What Is #StopCambo?

Campaigners celebrate as oil giant Shell pulls out of the controversial proposed project off Shetland

By hannah rochell 
3 December 2021

Climate campaigners are celebrating, as oil giant Shell has announced that it is pulling out of proposed projects that would be drilling for as much as 1.7 billion barrels of oil as late as 2050, long after we’re meant to have stopped relying on fossil fuels. Last month, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Cambo - the planned heavy crude oil field off the coast of Shetland in the North Sea - 'should not get the green light'. She had previously stopped short of outright opposing it, but continued: 'The presumption would be that Cambo could not and should not pass any rigorous climate assessment.' And now Shell's move, which has been described as a 'deathblow' by green campaigners, could put the entire project in jeopardy. 'After comprehensive screening of the proposed Cambo development, we have concluded the economic case for investment in this project is not strong enough at this time, as well as having the potential for delays,' Shell said. 

The campaign group Stop Cambo posted the news on Instagram, saying it was a huge victory for activism. Cambo has received extensive media coverage thanks to campaigners and the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November. In August, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson received delivery of a petition signed by 80k people objecting to the project. It was presented to 10 Downing Street by climate campaigners including Mikaela Loach. And climate justice activist Lauren Macdonald gave an impassioned speech to the CEO of Dutch Shell about Cambo, on stage at a talk at TED Countdown in October, which went viral. You can watch that here.

Rather than following the lead of Denmark and France, which have both agreed to ban new oil exploration licences, and in spite of having signed the Paris Climate Agreement which agrees that in order to keep global warming to 1.5ºC, there should be no new coal, gas or oil developments, Boris Johnson's UK Government will allow oil drillers to continue exploring the North Sea for new reserves if they pass a “climate compatibility test”, a move described by the head of Greenpeace’s UK oil campaign, Mel Evans, as ‘a colossal failure in climate leadership’. But in a further loophole, Cambo will not even have to pass through this controversial climate checkpoint at all, because it is part of a previously licenced project.

Last year alone, the UK issued a whopping 113 new licences to search for more oil; there are already 282 fields with reserves of the equivalent of 5 billion barrels of oil. On its current trajectory, the UK is on track to double or even quadruple its oil reserves, something which is in direct conflict with its pledge to reach net zero emissions. Cambo would also have devastating local environmental impacts; it has emerged that pipelines would run directly through a Marine Conservation Area, home to the rare 'cheesy-bottom' sponge belt & ocean quahogs, one of the oldest living animals on Earth.

But there is hope. People power is making a difference. At the other end of the country on the Isle of Wight, campaigners have been fighting for six years against a proposal to drill for oil on the island, which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. If it had gone ahead, the development would have meant a loss of green space, air and soil pollution, damage to the water supply and threats to local wildlife including hedgehogs, bats and red squirrels, all of which are endangered or vulnerable.  Thankfully, the campaign group Don't Drill The Wight worked hard to oppose it, gathering over 4000 signatures on a petition back in March, prompting over 3000 people to officially object and encouraging locals to email their councillors this past week in advance of the council's decision on October 19th. The council voted unanimously to refuse permission. 

So what can you do? Stop Cambo has issued advice on who to write to, what to sign and what to share on social media, which you can read here. High profile names including Gina Martin (pictured, top) and Paid To Pollute (a campaign spearheaded by climate activist Mikaela Loach) have already posted on the subject and continue to campaign - you can share their posts if you don’t want to make your own: it’s that simple. Let’s make some noise.

This article was originally published in July 2021 and has since been updated

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