Chris Packham’s warning to UK politicians is good – but it needs to go much harder

Posters which read 'Warning' in the colours of the three largest political parties that says voters won't vote for them if they sanction oil and gas
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So far, the year 2023 has done its upmost to prove that the catastrophic climate crisis is the new normal. This has manifested in the form of devastating wildfires, boiling seas, and record lows of Antarctic sea ice. Despite this, Rishi Sunak has vowed (threatened?) to “max out” our oil and gas reserves – even though fossil fuels are one of the primary causes of the ongoing catastrophe.

While Labour has criticised Sunak’s plan to suck as much death-juice out of the Earth as possible, Keir Starmer has also said the party will continue sucking it up when it’s in power – i.e., it won’t revoke any of the 100+ North Sea licences that the PM plans to issue. Given this complete lack of political opposition to the climate apocalypse, it’s understandable why people like Chris Packham are taking a stand:

Read on...

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However, it’s arguable that the ambitions of this campaign don’t go anywhere near far enough.

Chris Packham: no ‘new’ oil?

If the above image isn’t clear, the flyers read:



if you do not include an unambiguous

assertion that you will not

sanction any future licencing of


and immediately cease subsidies to


companies in your manifesto


The obvious problem is that these manifestos will almost certainly be written after Sunak’s 100+ licences are issued – i.e., Labour could promise no ‘future’ licences without promising to revoke any. Given that, it’s unclear why Packham has adopted a position which would allow for catastrophic climate change to continue at the current pace. The No New Oil site isn’t much clearer on this, with this being all it has to say:

This week the Conservative government, our elected leaders, approved the licensing of 100 new oil and gas fields. Westminster is focused on votes over the biggest crisis to ever face humanity. But we, the people, hold the power with our votes.​

This is a warning to our current and potential future political leaders – we won’t vote for new oil and gas. The ballot box is our voice and louder than ever we are calling for no new fossil fuels.​

This is a call to action – use your voice, use your vote. Print the posters, post them far and wide. We, the people, vote for the long-term survival of ourselves and future generations, not for short-term political gain.​

The oil party is over.

Hopefully the movement will come up with a clearer stance between now and the sky catching fire.

Greenpeace joins Packham: #NoNewOil

Greenpeace is also using the #NoNewOil hashtag, like Packham. However, the group is it least being clear that the 100+ new licences cannot happen full stop:

Greenpeace’s open letter, however, isn’t significantly better – stating:

Fossil fuels need to become a thing of the past. That means no new oil and gas and no more unjust profits for fossil fuel bosses. The biggest polluters must be taxed for the destruction they’re causing to our planet. And workers in polluting industries must be supported into good green jobs.

As Greenpeace UK noted, these oil and gas licences are held by private companies, so none of this would stop them from extracting as much as they like and selling it to whoever stumps up the cash. It might technically be illegal to revoke these licences once they’re issued, but given that there’ll be no one left to put on trial should we continue extracting fossil fuels, who cares?

Sunak’s (self) interests

An important point to factor into this story is that renewables have actually been reliably cheaper than gas, and the government predicts this situation will persist:

An equally important bit of information is this:

This highlights what’s obvious to us all already – that the fossil fuel industry is a pyramid scheme designed to enrich a handful of billionaires while the rest of us choke.

Preventing the expansion of oil extraction is something, but it’s not enough. We salute Chris Packham – but also say ‘please go further’.  If we’re going to hold our politicians’ feet to the fire, it should really be to the fire that’s already raging – not some smaller fire from the future that will barely be noticeable in the inferno that current emissions have whipped up. 

Featured image via Chris Packham – screengrab

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