This month I have been contacted by a large number of constituents on the UK and Scottish Government’s plan to drill the Cambo oil field off the west coast of Shetland.
There is no response to the climate crisis that does not confront the problem of fossil fuel supply head on. As things stand, the UN has warned that countries are on course to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with limiting average global temperature increases to 1.5°C. And, as you note, the International Energy Agency makes clear that the pathway the world needs to take to get to a net zero energy system by 2050 involves no new oil and gas fields being approved for development beyond projects already committed to as of this year.
In the chamber, I questioned the Secretary of State for Scotland on the UK and Scottish Government’s backing of Cambo and called for them to reject it. You can watch me pressing the Government on this here.
It is therefore vital that we reach an international agreement on a managed and fair phasing out of fossil fuels across the globe. To do this, we need the UK Government to show leadership as the COP26 climate conference approaches. Unfortunately, I am concerned that plans to develop the Cambo oil field could instead undermine the effort to foster international action on this issue.
While the decision to permit drilling for oil is reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government can still publicly oppose the plans but it has been completely silent on the issue. Not speaking out on this issue is completely at odds with the Scottish Government’s target to transform Scotland into a carbon neutral nation by 2045. I am sure you have seen Nicola Sturgeon’s fence-sitting on this subject when she asked the UK Government for a review. If it was any other subject she would be marching in the street. She has been condemned by multiple environmental charities, including Greenpeace for her inability to come out against Cambo. Instead, she has just partaken in PR stunts where she asked the PM to “reassess” the oil field. A far cry from the opposition that Cambo deserves.
I also note that when the Green Party leadership were asked about this as part of their new coalition with the SNP in government, they refused to discuss it as it was “reserved”. Indeed, Patrick Harvie attacked Keir Starmer when he came out against Cambo but praised the First Minister, for her evolution, when she asked Boris to reassess. Too much obfuscation and not enough action.
Seeking to drill for more oil and gas simply sends the message that the Governments in Westminster and Holyrood do not take the climate emergency seriously and have not accepted the urgent need to phase out fossil fuel production.
As part of my Shadow Ministerial brief, I recently visited the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, a world leader in the innovation of renewable energy, to look at what they’re doing in terms of tidal power. It was amazing to see Orkney at the forefront of global game-changing tidal energy projects. However, governments in Westminster and Holyrood must recognise this, instead of insisting on further damaging drilling in the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
In the run up to COP26, not only do we need Orkney to be a tidal energy pioneer, but Scotland more widely must lead on this. You can watch me speech more on this here.
A Just Transition means we need to be planning for a future without fossil fuels and that means the protection of jobs over the medium term by providing highly paid and highly skilled opportunities in new and green technologies.