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13 October 2019
Achieving net-zero at SNP conference

Image credit: Emily Woods

Achieving net-zero at SNP conference

The future for Scotland’s oil industry and the country’s renewable energy commitments have been discussed during Holyrood’s first fringe event of the SNP autumn conference.

The Achieving Net-Zero - How can industry work with policy makers to create a sustainable economy? panel included SNP MP Drew Hendry, SNP spokesperson for business, energy and industrial strategy MSP Stewart Stevenson, and BP’s director of UK government affairs Andrew Mennear.

Chair, and Holyrood magazine editor, Mandy Rhodes kicked off the event by asking BP about the role of business in moving towards a future “recognising there is a climate crisis”.

Mennear said there was a business case for moving to low-carbon energy, and “we’re venturing into different technologies, in places around the world”.

“But you need the right policy and regulatory systems in place to take it to the market,” he said.

Stevenson spoke about Norway’s oil fund, which he said was “divesting from oil and gas, and investing in renewable energy”.

“We [in Scotland] do have some interesting projects, we have the Acorn Project which is a small demonstrator project which is taking gas out of the north sea, decarbonising the gas and putting back into the gas network hydrogen,” he said.

“That gas network can continue to have value while having a zero-net impact on the environment."

On reducing carbon footprint, Stevenson said everyone could have an impact: “if you’re going to the shops, take your neighbour with you, that will reduce the carbon footprint.

"Once we start making these small changes, we will be able to get to the destination we need to get to.”

BP’s Mennear spoke about the technologies the company was working on around renewables, including “ultra-fast chargers” which could charge an electric Nissan car “in ten minutes”.

“People should not have to wait all night to charge their car,” he said. “But there are barriers to the take up of demand, this isn’t a supply driven picture at all. There are choices that will need to be made, and governments need to tell people to get ready for these changes.”

Hendry chimed in to bring the conversation back to a main focus of the SNP autumn conference, Scottish independence. 

“We have an opportunity in Scotland through independence to get rid of those shackles [from Westminster] and support individuals in making the changes we need to make.

"We need a Westminster Government not focused on building nuclear power stations by investing that money into renewables.

“The only way we can break through this is to make sure we're not hampered by policies, making us locked into this eternal cycle.”

Hendry gave an example of Scotland’s pro-renewables record, in tree planting: “Scotland planted 84 per cent of the tree planting in the UK”.

“There's a massive amount of catching up to do by Westminster.”

He said low-carbon can mean low-cost and discussed the change being brought by public activism through Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion. 

“What they’ve done is put into the consumer mind demand, to make it more exciting, but we have to do even more to get climate change up the agenda," he said.

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