Catholic Church's Climate Advocate Criticizes Sunak as 'Utterly Reckless' Regarding North Sea Licenses

Sunak cop 28

   The senior bishop overseeing the Catholic Church's stance on climate and business, John Arnold, has strongly criticized Rishi Sunak for what he deems as "utterly reckless" actions in issuing new North Sea oil licenses. Bishop Arnold expressed his concerns amidst the ongoing COP28 climate summit in Dubai, attended by business leaders and world figures, including the Prime Minister.

Arnold remarked, "The North Sea licenses stand in stark contrast to any understanding of our environmental needs. It seems to me utterly reckless that we'd be promoting fossil fuels at the very time when we should be radically reducing them." The critique comes as a response to legislation introduced by Sunak, allowing companies to bid annually for oil and gas licenses permitting drilling in the North Sea.

Notably, the Catholic Church, historically tied to investments in oil and gas, is attempting to distance itself from such connections. Bishop Arnold revealed efforts to negotiate with fossil fuel companies but found them lacking in meeting promises, leading many dioceses to divest from such investments.

Bishop Arnold's comments represent a rare intervention by the Catholic Church in UK politics. He raised concerns about the compromise of the COP28 conference, being held in the United Arab Emirates, a major oil producer, and attended by oil and gas lobbyists. 

The event's large attendance, estimated at 400,000 people, is expected to contribute significantly to its carbon footprint.

Bishop Arnold, appointed as the national lead on climate and environment, criticized Labour's environmental track record, especially its decision to scale back plans for significant green investments. 

He expressed disappointment with Labour leader Keir Starmer's lack of emphasis on the environment, stating, "Politicians are not waking up to the facts. They're all too concerned about the next election, pleasing people in material ways, and growing the economy – all of which fights against any real suggestion of good environmental measures."