The UK government has given £20bn more in support to fossil fuel producers than those of renewables since 2015, the Guardian can reveal.
The research, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, found that while renewable energy was given £60bn in support over that time, fossil fuel companies were given close to £80bn.
In 2020, renewable energy support was greater than fossil fuel support for the first time. However, fossil fuels have been receiving greater additional investment recently. From 2020 to 2021 they received an extra £1bn support from the government compared with 2020, a 10.7% increase. For renewable energy in the same year, total support for projects increased by just £1m, or 0.01%.
Analysis by the House of Commons library found that a fifth of the money given directly to the fossil fuel industry was to support new extraction and mining. In 2021, support for fossil fuel extraction rose by 20% to nearly £2bn.
Politicians have asked the government to put net zero at the heart of policy decisions instead of funding fossil fuel corporations.
Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat climate and energy spokesperson, said: “It is extremely alarming that the Conservative government has been giving these staggering amounts to the fossil fuel industry. Not only have the Conservatives failed to properly tax the record profits of the oil and gas giants, they have showered these companies with taxpayer money too.
“We have been through one of the toughest winters on record and the energy crisis is still biting hard. The government squandered the opportunity to shield us from these spiralling energy bills through their lack of long-term thinking. For years, they gave billions to the fossil fuel industry, rather than actually improving our energy security by investing properly in renewables.
“This is just yet more proof of the government’s legacy of failure on climate change. They need to get a grip and start putting net zero at the heart of all our policy decisions. It will grant us the energy-secure, green future we desperately need.”
She added that, when in the coalition government, the Liberal Democrats tripled renewable energy generation, and said the Lib Dems would also end new listings of fossil fuel companies on the London Stock Exchange and require existing fossil fuel companies to set out how they will transition to net zero.
Fossil fuel companies have been criticised for not investing sufficiently in renewables, despite getting tax breaks and funding from government. Shell and BP made £32bn and £23bn in profit last year respectively while energy bills rose. Shell invested nearly £10bn into oil and gas projects over the year, compared with just £3bn in its renewable energy division. Similarly, BP has announced that it is scaling back the ambition for its emission-cutting targets. Previously, the fossil fuel producer had said it wanted to cut emissions by 35-40% by 2030, but now it has committed to a 20-30% reduction.
A government spokesperson said: “This is utterly misleading analysis. The Climate Change Committee themselves have said we’ll still need some fossil fuels as part of our move towards the net zero target, which is why we must ensure we remain an attractive investment for all energy sectors, as we have consistently been for renewables.
“Our domestic oil and gas industry have a vital role ensuring energy security and the transition to net zero, and alongside that since 2010 the UK has seen more than a 500% increase in the amount of renewable electricity capacity connected to the grid, making the UK a world leader in offshore wind with the most installed capacity in Europe. This will play a key role in achieving net zero by 2050, and will create thousands of new jobs around the country.”
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