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‘COP27 showcases new ascendancy of oil lobby’, says Cambridge author





COP27 is demonstrating that the effects of the war in Ukraine have eclipsed concerns about climate change, says author and campaigner Terry Macalister ahead of the launch of his new film, The Oil Machine, at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse later this month.

Terry Macalister is a Cambridge-based author and environmental campaigner. Picture: Ella Hone
Terry Macalister is a Cambridge-based author and environmental campaigner. Picture: Ella Hone

The assessment from former energy editor of The Guardian comes as research published by Global Witness shows there are 600 more speakers with links to oil and gas at the climate change conference in Egypt than there were in Glasgow for COP26 – a 25 per cent rise.

“The Ukrainian war has changed the dynamics massively in favour of the oil companies,” the Cambridge-based author of Crude Britannia told the Cambridge Independent. “The invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the energy and cost of living crisis created by that has put oil companies closer to the seat of government. Governments are now worried about their energy security.

At COP26 the oil companies were overtly excluded from proceedings, that was the rhetoric at least, and the oil companies were very much on the back foot, and being exclude from government. They also has enormous problems as Covid lockdowns drove the price of oil to zero.

“But since the February invasion of Ukraine there’s been a massive spike in oil prices, to nearly $100 per barrel. This is massive for oil companies who now have more profit than they know what to do with – and they are back in favour with governments who need their help and are terrified of the energy crunch.

“The current UK government has issued 100 new oil licences for the North Sea. They’re saying ‘we need our own resources’ but the truth is that argument is shallow to put it mildly – it’s not British companies benefitting. It’ll take 10 years to even find the oil to produce it and there’s no obligation from the oil companies that they’ll sell it to the UK.

The convention centre hosting the COP27 summit at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Picture: Peter Dejong/AP
The convention centre hosting the COP27 summit at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Picture: Peter Dejong/AP

“This shouldn’t be happening because we should be self-sufficient from oil by now if investment into sustainable sources of energy – tidal, solar, wind – had happened.

“And why is no one talking about reducing demand by switching to EVs (electric vehicles) and a huge insulation programme for UK homes?”

The Oil Machine was previewed in Piccadilly, in central London, this week. It is due to be shown at film festivals in Berlin and Amsterdam. The 82 minute film depicts the challenge of ridding fossil fuels from the global economy.

“The film shows the enormous dependence we currently have on oil and petroleum products and explores the history of that, and the excitement around the development of North Sea platforms in the 1970s.

“The industry created a lot of jobs in the UK, with benefits for the Exchequer, and created a huge boom that allowed families to acquire cars, and these huge inter-city motorways were built. It was a new carbon era – and now we find ourselves in a very different situation where this industry has become a danger and carbon emissions are still increasing, breaking up the Arctic, raising sea levels, causing flooding and droughts as climate change accelerates. So the question now is ‘how do we switch this industry off?’ and the film explores the complexity of this process.

The Oil Machine is being shown at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse on November 28, 6.15pm-8.15pm.

A Q&A panel will be hosted by Terry Macalister after the viewing.



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