Press release: 6 November 2023

King's speech media reaction: UK’s fossil fuel push flies in the face of science and binding climate targets 

ClientEarth has issued the following statement in response to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s climate policy announcements for the King’s speech.

In the latest development today, the government has announced it will back its commitment to new oil and gas by legally requiring the regulator to conduct a licensing round every year.

In the last 12 months the government has announced plans to water down existing environmental laws, roll back climate commitments such as the 2030 ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars, approve the Cumbria coal mine and hand out hundreds of new oil and gas licences for the North Sea. 

This has prompted the United Nations to seek assurances from the government that there will be no more policy rollbacks – just two years after the country hosted COP26. And this is despite repeated warnings from the government’s own climate advisors that the government’s climate policies are insufficient. 

ClientEarth CEO Laura Clarke said: 

“The warnings from the International Energy Agency could not be starker: there can be no new long-term fossil fuel projects if the world is to avoid the worst of the climate crisis. Yet the UK government continues to greenlight more fossil fuel expansion plans in the upcoming legislative agenda. 

“The UK simply cannot be a climate leader with this approach. It is an approach that will  lock the UK into expensive and polluting forms of energy while making it harder to meet its legally-binding emissions reduction targets.

“Allowing multinational oil and gas companies to drill for more gas in the North Sea will do nothing to bring down household energy bills, nor help UK energy independence and security. The UK needs more clean energy investment to create long-term green jobs, with the renewables transition fast underway, and it needs the right policy signals to attract that investment, or risk falling behind.   

“ClientEarth is already challenging the government’s existing climate plan on the grounds that it cannot be relied on to deliver the UK’s carbon budgets. Any reduction in the overall strength of the government’s policies means the UK falls further behind what the Climate Change Act requires. 

“We will continue to keep a close eye on further developments to see how they affect the UK’s compliance with its legal obligations.” 


About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.