New legislation to mandate annual oil and gas licensing in the North Sea is expected to be set out in the King’s Speech tomorrow (7 November).

The bill will allow the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) to invite applications for new oil and gas production licenses on an annual basis. This would replace the current structure which sees no fixed period between licensing rounds.

According to the UK government the move is a further step to “support the UK’s transition to net zero in a pragmatic, proportionate and realistic way” whilst also protecting jobs, energy security and reducing reliance on foreign imports.


Echoing his September speech which delayed targets for heat decarbonisation and fossil-fuel car sale bans, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that the introduction of annual North Sea licenses were to avoid “adding undue burdens on households”.

Explaining the reasoning behind the announcement, secretary of state for energy security and net zero, Claire Coutinho cited data published by the Climate Change Committee, which showed that the UK will continues to relay on fossil fuels even if the nation reaches net zero by 2050.

“The UK has cut its emissions faster than any of its peers. But as the independent Climate Change Committee acknowledges, we will need oil and gas even as we reach net zero in 2050,” said Coutinho.

Read more: Current+

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