28 June 2024

Government met oil and gas representatives every day in 2023, analysis suggests

28 June 2024

The UK Government met representatives from the oil and gas sector an average of 1.4 times per working day in 2023, an analysis has suggested.

At least 65 fossil fuel organisations and industry bodies were identified meeting with ministers over the course of the year, according to an investigation by Global Witness.

The environmental group analysed data by Transparency International UK, looking at any organisation that “could be reasonably assumed to have the goal of influencing policy or legislation in the interests of a fossil fuel company and its shareholders”.

According to its findings, ministers met representatives from the oil and gas sector at least 343 times last year, up from 330 meetings held in 2022.

More widely, the group found that meetings between fossil fuel representatives and the government have been steadily increasing over the past 11 years.

The meetings reached record-high levels in November 2023, when the government met oil and gas groups at least 63 times, equivalent to almost three meetings every working day, the campaigners said.

The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which would mandate annual licensing of new oil and gas fields in the North Sea, was introduced the same month, they noted.

The end of November also marked the start of the UN climate change conference COP28 in Dubai.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) met oil and gas representatives at least 214 times in 2023 and 249 times the year before, the analysis also suggests.

Graham Stuart, who until recently was the minister in charge of energy security and net zero, was found to have personally met them 55 times in 2023, making up at least a quarter of all his official meetings.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho and Under Secretary of State Andrew Bowie met oil and gas groups 42 times each, it found.

For Ms Coutinho, these amounted to 42% of all her declared meetings last year.

In other parts of the government, officials in the Department for Business and Trade met oil and gas representatives at least 75 times in 2023, while the Treasury met them at least 22 times.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attended seven meetings with oil and gas organisations in 2023, including a meeting with Shell, North Sea Midstream Partners and Harbour Energy on the same day he pledged to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves and granted hundreds of new oil and gas licenses, according to Global Witness.

Gas and electricity supplier EDF Energy met Government officials the most of any energy firms, with at least 44 meetings found in the data, amounting to more than once per working week on average.

BP followed with 42 meetings, a third of which were with Mr Stuart, while SSE met ministers 38 times and Shell met them 35 times.

Global Witness also included renewable energy firm Octopus Energy in its analysis but it is understood that the company, which advocates for the green transition, strongly disputes its characterisation by the campaign group.

Alice Harrison, head of fossil fuel campaigns at Global Witness: “For far too long the oil and gas industry has enjoyed privileged access to power, so it’s no wonder we are still so far away from real climate action.

“Fossil fuel companies are responsible for the climate crisis and made record-breaking profits from the energy crisis.

“They cannot be trusted to fix a mess of their own creation so whoever wins this election must slam the door shut on their toxic influence.”

Government ministers and officials meet a range of stakeholders from across the energy sector.

Smoke rising out of chimneys at Ratcliffe on Soar power station near Nottingham. File photo. (David Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

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