Extracting the 5.7 billion barrels of oil and gas in fields already operating would see the UK miss its climate change goals, a new report warns.
Friends of the Earth Scotland said extracting that amount from oil and gas fields would exceed the UK’s share in relation to the international Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Industry and government aim to extract 20 billion barrels, according to the study by Platform, Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth Scotland.
The report said that recent subsidies for oil and gas extraction will add twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as the phase-out of coal power saves.
It also found that opening new fields would nearly quadruple the emissions from UK oil and gas.
The report calls on the UK and Scottish governments to stop issuing licences and permits for new oil and gas exploration and development, and revoke undeveloped licences.
Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Climate science is clear that we urgently need to phase out fossil fuels, yet the government and big oil are doing everything they can to squeeze every last drop out of the North Sea.
“To tackle the climate emergency head on we must ban oil and gas exploration now, and redirect the vast subsidies propping up fossil fuel extraction towards creating decent jobs in a clean energy economy.
“Real climate leadership means making tough decisions now that put us on a path to a climate safe future.
“A Just Transition for workers and communities currently dependent on high carbon industries is an essential part of that.”
The report urges the UK and Scottish governments to work with affected communities and trade unions on a “Just Transition” plan to create new decent jobs in clean industries, alongside a managed phase-out of oil and gas extraction.
It warns that failing to begin a transition now will mean later action would have to be so rapid as to cause a collapse of the industry, putting tens of thousands of jobs and regional economies at risk.
However, it found that given the right policies, job creation in clean energy industries will exceed affected oil and gas jobs more than threefold.
The report also warned that if all countries took the same approach as the UK – of “phasing out coal power while maximising oil and gas extraction” – resulting warming would significantly exceed 2C, moving “dangerously beyond” the Paris goals.
The Scottish Government wants to hit “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, and has lodged changes to legislation to set new tougher targets.
Oil and Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie said: “The UK’s offshore oil and gas industry is part of the solution.
“The facts show that we need a managed and comprehensive transition towards a lower carbon future.
“Our industry can play a key role in the transition, reducing emissions from offshore production and helping the UK to lead on carbon reduction technologies, including the switch to hydrogen and long-term storage of Co2.
“This will ensure the UK continues to enjoy secure and affordable energy alongside an accelerating transition to a low carbon future.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “There is no bigger priority than tackling climate change, and Scotland is already well recognised as a world leader in doing so.
“The First Minister has accepted the recommendations from the Committee on Climate Change to increase targets on tackling and reducing emissions. We have therefore committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2045, and are looking at a range of policies to make sure that they align with that increased scale of ambition.
“The domestic oil and gas industry and its supply chain can play a positive role in supporting the low carbon transition.
“We are committed to achieving a carbon-neutral economy and to managing that transition in a way that is fair for all.”
A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: “The UK is proud to be a global leader in tackling climate change. We were the first country to raise the issue on the international stage, and to introduce long-term legally-binding carbon reduction targets, and we have gone further than any other G7 nation by cutting our emissions by 40% since 1990.
“The best way to meet our climate targets in a sustainable way is to manage oil and gas production from our relatively small domestic basin while reducing our use of fossil fuels—which is exactly what we are doing.”