How to stop Rosebank oil and gas field

The Scottish climate change activist Lauren MacDonald on why this North Sea project is financially and practically flawed and the catastrophic impact it will have on the environment.

When I became involved in climate activism, it was a matter of survival. Not only because the science paints a bleak picture of our future if we continue to drag our heels on enacting real change, but also because, sadly, I no longer trusted the people in power to make choices in the interest of the planet – and the rich diversity of life that calls it home.

Climate conferences came and went and each time we heard the same tepid promises. It became more disheartening as a young person, knowing I would be forced to live through the climate breakdown that so many politicians were talking about in the abstract.

When COP26 came to my hometown of Glasgow [in 2021] my energy changed. I felt a fresh glimmer of hope upon seeing the way people came together from different causes and campaigns, and with unique perspectives to force pressure on UK leaders to translate their rhetoric into real action. At the heart of this fight was the Stop Cambo campaign, which highlighted the hypocrisy of the UK hosting climate talks while planning to approve a huge oil and gas development on our very own doorstep (in the North Sea, 125km northwest of the Shetland Islands).

Thanks to the tireless efforts of well-organised and determined campaigners, it has now been a full year since the Stop Cambo campaign forced the multinational oil giant Shell to pull its investment in the Cambo oil field. Shell cited both economic and political challenges, but it was the efforts of campaigners around the UK, which included protests, petitions, digital action and legal challenges, that meant the project became untenable for Shell.

The North Sea is now viewed by the oil and gas industry as the most likely place in the world to face legal challenges from climate activists, and the appetite of oil and gas companies to invest in the ageing basin is waning. However, following the hottest summer on record, major climate events in China and Pakistan, and ever-escalating climate warnings from the UN, the government wants to open up another huge oil field in the North Sea (operated by the Norwegian state-owned energy giant Equinor). Rosebank is currently the largest undeveloped oil and gas field in the UK, dwarfing Cambo in size and consequence. As much as Cambo’s potential destructive impact cannot be understated, Rosebank presents an even greater threat to our planet. The CO2 emissions that would be released into the atmosphere from burning reserves of just this one oil field would equate to more than the annual CO2 emissions of all the low-income countries in the world. These are the same countries that have contributed the least to the climate crisis but which are already experiencing some of the worst impacts of a warming planet.

From opening up a new licensing round for oil and gas in the North Sea to approving new climate-wrecking fossil fuel projects under the guise of creating energy security, the government has shown absolute negligence when it comes to living up to its climate promises.

The truth is, Rosebank would do nothing to increase the security or affordability of our energy supply in the UK. For starters, the UK exports about 80 per cent of the oil it produces in the North Sea and sells it on the global market to the highest bidder. We are living through a drastic cost of living crisis, with people having to choose between heating their homes and buying food for their families. It’s shameful that the government is using the crisis to sell the public on the idea that new oil and gas will help bring fuel costs down.

Secondly, we should be doubling down on renewables, not waiting for an oil field that won’t start producing until 2026. Experts estimate there are dozens of “shovel-ready” renewable projects waiting for approval. The government should be doing all it can to get us off expensive oil and gas and onto more affordable, cleaner energy.

Climate anxiety is very real and it’s easy to feel disheartened when we are bombarded with negative climate news. Fortunately, the tide is turning against Rosebank and new oil and gas projects like it, from MPs questioning the vast subsidies going to new oil and gas projects in the midst of a cost of living crisis, to concerns being raised by the regulator over the impact new projects like Rosebank will have on our seas.

But the most powerful force against Rosebank is the mobilisation of people who care about their future and that of the planet and are prepared to put up a fight. You, reading this, can make a difference with something as simple as reaching out to your MP, asking them to oppose the project. Or come along to one of the Stop Rosebank campaign’s regular welcome calls, where you can learn how to get involved, speak out and organise. This is how we win.

To learn more about stopping Rosebank oil and gas field, visit

Taken from HUNGER Issue 27: Call to Action. Available to buy here.

WriterLauren MacDonald