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Oil and gas ‘not the problem’ for climate, says UK’s net zero minister

Oil and gas are “not the problem” for the climate, but the carbon emissions arising from them are, the UK’s net zero minister has told MPs.

In words that suggested the UK could place yet more emphasis on technologies to capture and store carbon, Graham Stuart said fossil fuel production was not driving climate change, but demand for fossil fuels was.

His statements were a bullish defence of the government’s much-criticised stance.

“I don’t think supply is the key driver – it is demand we need to focus on,” said Stuart, who will attend the Cop28 UN climate summit that begins later this month, where the future of oil and gas production will be under scrutiny.

Earlier this week, in the king’s speech, the government set out plans for new oil and gas licensing in the North Sea, which opposition parties and green campaigners said ran contrary to the UK’s climate goals.

Stuart said the UK had “no problems” on climate policy and was leading the world, in response to questioning from parliament’s environmental audit committee on Wednesday.

“If you really care about climate change, the last country you need to worry about is the UK,” he told MPs. “We are not the problem, it’s encouraging others to follow us on the net zero pathway, that is the biggest challenge.”