UK to host global energy security summit in early 2024

Publish: 7:05 PM, August 10, 2023 | Update: 7:05 PM, August 10, 2023

Britain will host an international energy security summit next year, the government announced on Thursday, inviting big oil-producing nations and companies but focusing also on net zero.

The London Energy Security Conference, set for early 2024, will concentrate on shoring up supplies and making the system “more resilient to shocks”, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said.

The gathering will come two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended gas supplies and sent wholesale prices spiralling, and as countries grapple with the transition away from fossil fuels.

“Energy security does not stop at our borders,” Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.

“Our landmark… conference will bring together international governments and industry leaders to help rewire the global energy system and build collective resilience.”

Shapps told Politico the event would be “inclusive” and major Middle Eastern fossil fuel producing countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates should be “in the room”.

Russia will not be invited, the outlet reported, though he noted London had not “got to the detail of invitations at this stage”.

– UK credentials under scrutiny –

The announcement comes with the UK’s environmental credentials under increasing scrutiny, as the country’s worst cost-of-living crisis in decades and electoral politics threaten to slow its decarbonisation push.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s ruling Conservatives have faced criticism in recent weeks for announcing plans to issue hundreds of new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.

Ministers have also suggested the rollout of other environmental policies, such as improving the energy efficiency of rented properties and phasing out some domestic boilers, could be slowed.

It follows the Tories’ surprise victory in a London parliamentary by-election which was dominated by Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s contentious expansion of a scheme taxing the use of the most polluting vehicles.

The result appears to have emboldened Tory net zero opponents, but Sunak has insisted he remains committed to the UK’s 2050 net zero target and key policies such as banning new petrol and diesel vehicle sales from 2030.

“We can’t have global security without net zero,” Shapps told Politico, noting extreme weather and other impacts from climate change were increasingly affecting security.

But he also argued diversifying away from fossil fuels was only “part of the answer” and that it has “never been more important not to be reliant on single sources” of energy.

“We’re not going to do it while screwing our population,” Shapps said on the net zero transition.

“We’re going to do it while taking our population with us. That means accessing our own oil and gas rather than importing (it from) others.”