It comes after Mr Sharma’s speech at the climate summit in Glasgow was interrupted by activists – branding him a “hypocrite” for the government’s support of the oilfield to the west of the Shetland islands.
If approved, the project would produce up to 170 million barrels of oil between 2025 and 2050 and the government has faced intense pressure to scrap the plans, or risk damaging it’s efforts to lead the Cop26 conference.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Mr Sharma defended the UK’s efforts to decarbonise the economy as he dodged a question over whether giving the Cambo oil field the green light will help Britain demonstrate its “moral authority”.
“In terms of oil and gas, we’ve been very clear, we’ve said in terms of granting any future licences there will be a climate compatibility checkpoint,” he stressed.
“Any licences that are granted will have to be compatible with our legal requirement to be net zero by 2050.”
Quizzed about an International Energy Agency (IEA) report that said no new oil or gas establishments could be set up after this year if the UK was to achieve its net zero target, Mr Sharma added: “The IEA report also makes clear that, even in a net zero scenario, there is some element of oil and gas in that.”
When pressed on whether it was within his power to stop the development, Mr Sharma said his role, as Cop26 president, was to “bring together consensus” amongst 200 countries attending the summit for the next two weeks in Glasgow.
“That is something that is being considered – there was a consultation and inquiry around all of that – I’m not going to go into that particular issue,” he added.
“When there is an announcement, an agreement, I’m very happy to come back and talk to you.”
Lord Deben, the chair of the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), has previously suggested of Cambo: “We really do have to face up to the issue that there may be some occasions where we think that development could be of a kind which would help our move towards net zero to such a degree that it’s worth doing.
“But we always have to remember that the moment you do any of that, you’re setting an example that will be quoted throughout the world as showing this kind of development is acceptable.”
Asked about the remarks, Mr Sharma told the BBC: “Well, as I said, that’s no my decision, that’s not my role.
“When a decision is made I’m very happy to come back and discuss it. They’ve [CCC] also said the net zero strategy that we have produced is a landmark strategy globally and it’s one other countries will look at and take head of.”
Responding to the interview, the Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Alok Sharma unable to defend the indefensible – he was doing well on Marr until he had to answer why his government is going ahead with a new oil field at Cambs.”