Climate activists have slammed the announcement of 27 new oil and gas licences in the UK as "backward".

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) said the licenses have been awarded in areas prioritised because they have the potential to go into production more quickly than others.

It said the licences in the central and northern North Sea and west of Shetland were awarded first to let operators press ahead with their plans to explore and develop oil and gas resources.

This has brought much criticism from climate groups who have claimed this action would be “fuelling the climate crisis rather than helping to fix it”.

Philip Evans, climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “Greenpeace plans to fight these licences in the courtroom, and we’re mobilising voters to prioritise climate at the next election, because frankly we’re all sick of these backward-facing policies.”

The Argus: Greenpeace has said it plans to fight the new licenses in courtGreenpeace has said it plans to fight the new licenses in court (Image: Canva)

'We need both oil and gas and renewables'

Offshore Energies UK, the leading trade body for the sector, has welcomed the news of the licenses saying that a mixed approach with renewable energy plus oil and gas was needed for the future.

Chief executive David Whitehouse said:  “We all recognise that our energy system must change, and our industry includes companies that are expanding into renewables while using their expertise to pioneer ever cleaner energy production.

“The reality of the energy transition is that we need both oil and gas and renewables in an integrated system to protect the UK’s energy needs over the coming years."

He added that with "careful management" the UK could become "the gold standard of energy transitions".

UK Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “As recognised by the independent Climate Change Committee – we’ll continue to need oil and gas over the coming decades as we deliver net zero

“It’s common sense to reduce our reliance on foreign imports and use our own supply – it’s better for our economy, the environment and our energy security.