LIZ Truss has been warned her plans to open up the North Sea to new oil and gas licences will “have no real impact on energy bills” and harm efforts to protect the climate.

The frontrunner to become the next prime minister would invite applications for drilling licences to explore new fields in the North Sea, according to reports.

Ms Truss would reportedly push oil and gas firms to invest in their existing sites to maximise production, according to The Times.

The Foreign Secretary is ready to issue as many as 130 licences under the controversial plans.

The UK Government has set a date of 2050 to become net zero, while Scotland's contribution to the climate crisis is set to end by 2045.

UK Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who is likely to be appointed Chancellor if Ms Truss enters No 10, and Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, have reportedly been holding talks with oil and gas giants to secure energy supplies amid fears of shortages this winter.

But the Truss camp has said the meetings were held in their ministerial capacities, were set up by civil servants and not linked with her campaign.

Another licensing round was already expected for the autumn, according to the UK Government’s energy security strategy, published in April.

The strategy says: “The North Sea Transition Authority plans to launch another licensing round in the autumn, taking into account the forthcoming climate compatibility checkpoint and the need for energy security.

"This will mean more domestic gas on the grid sooner.”

But campaigners have warned that new oil and gas could take 25 years to pump out and “have no real impact on energy bills”, while exacerbating climate change.

Fabrice Leveque, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said: “We can’t respond to one crisis by making another worse, and yet that is exactly what more oil and gas extraction would do.

"Only by investing in cheap renewables and insulating our homes, can we hope to tackle climate change and permanently slash energy bills. We need politicians of all colours to focus on real solutions like solar, wind, heat pumps and insulation, rather than chasing the mirage of cheap domestic fossil fuels.”

Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: “Unleashing a North Sea drilling frenzy isn’t a plan to help bill payers but a gift to the fossil fuel giants already making billions from this crisis.

“New oil and gas could take a quarter of a century to pump out, will be eventually sold at global prices, and have no real impact on energy bills, yet still fuel the climate crisis.

“Our gas dependence is what got us into this mess and doubling down on it won’t get us out of it. New renewables are nine times cheaper than gas.

"Turbo-charging renewables and fixing our energy-wasting homes by investing in insulation is the quickest way to reduce our gas dependence and bring energy bills under control.”

“If Liz Truss really wants to help cash-strapped households, she should bring in an energy bill freeze alongside extra financial support for the poorest households, partly funded by properly taxing the astronomical profits of oil and gas companies.”

Tessa Khan, director of Uplift, which campaigns for a fossil fuel-free UK, said: “What is shocking about this announcement is that it suggests that she is prepared to give people false hope.

“New North Sea oil and gas will do nothing to solve the crisis we face.”

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said issuing more drilling licences in the North Sea is not the answer to the current energy cost crisis.

Asked about Ms Truss’ reported plans, Ms Dodds said: “No, it’s not, and the answer really is to be taking action to get the cost of those bills down.”

The plans have been condemned by Nicola Sturgeon's partners in government, the Scottish Greens.

Scottish Greens environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, said: “The science is clear, the climate crisis is the greatest crisis that will be faced by this generation or future generations.

"It needs radical action, not more climate vandalism from the Tories.

“We can't drill our way out of environmental breakdown and Liz Truss’s proposals will do nothing to reduce household bills. We already have more oil and gas in current production than we can safely burn to keep to our climate commitments.

“We are approaching the end of the age of oil and gas, and the next prime minister must plan accordingly. That means revoking the Cambo licences and ensuring no new oil and gas licences whatsoever.”

“The UN has warned that it is code red for humanity, and governments need to start acting like it.

"Last year global leaders came together for COP 26, where they promised the earth. It is only nine months later and many of the warm words have turned to dust.

"What we need is a major investment in renewable energy. If the next PM is to play their part in averting climate disaster they must divert the support that is being targeted at oil and gas towards the green industries of the future.”

Tory former cabinet minister John Redwood, who backs Ms Truss for leader, said on Twitter: “Good news that Liz Truss plans to get more gas out of the North Sea to ease the squeeze.

“More permits and some changes of rules can boost output. The answer to an energy shortage and sky high prices is more supply.”