Cambo clash as First Minister addresses climate conference
Nicola Sturgeon has warned against turning off the supply of oil and gas in the short-term saying that it could lead to a spike in imports and leave behind communities in the north east.
Speaking at the TEDx Countdown in Edinburgh, the First Minister’s also repeated calls for licences to extract oil and gas from the North Sea to be reassessed by the UK Government.
But the SNP leader was criticised for not taking a stronger line on plans to open up an oil field at Cambo, west of Shetland.
Scottish Labour described her as “Boris Johnson’s spin doctor.”
The new field, which is likely to be approved by the UK government, will have the capacity to extract 150 million barrels of oil and operate until 2050.
Sturgeon has previously said the proposals for the Cambo field should be re-examined over "the severity of the climate emergency".
Speaking today, she said the licence needs to match a "climate compatibility" test and that that transition from fossil fuels has to be made “sustainably and fairly”.
“We’ve got to be careful that we don’t leave people and communities behind in that transition,” the First Minister said.
“We’ve got to be careful we don’t switch domestic production to imports of oil and gas – that would be counter-productive.
“So the way in which we make the transition matters, but we can’t have business as usual, because if we keep telling ourselves we can rely on fossil fuels forever, then we’ll never make that transition and that’s the key point we’ve got to address.”
Talking about the power of smaller states to take action, Sturgeon - who is the current chair of the Under2Coaltion of state and regional governments - said: "We so often talk about the contributions of America, Russia, China, Brazil, and that's important, we wouldn't limit global warming without these countries, but we also have to recognise that the action of small countries matters too. In the words of the current prime minister of Estonia, small countries have no time."
When Donald Trump took the US out of the Paris climate agreement during his tenure, it was a “coalition of states and cities that kept the momentum going”, the First Minister said.
“If we raise our ambition and if we follow that through with action, then we can spur the bigger countries to go further and faster too,” she said
“My point today is that yes, big countries matter, but the leadership of small nations matters too,” she said.
“It’s often states and regions and small nations that can step in when the bigger countries fail to act.”
Sturgeon said it was also imperative that leaders leaving Glasgow at the end of COP26 were able to “look the next generation in the eye”.
“Glasgow, and the agreement that comes out of Glasgow, must – in detail, not in rhetoric, in detailed funding commitments and in other commitments – have the ability to meet the Paris objective,” she said.
“If it doesn’t do that, then we will be letting down future generations and in my view that is unthinkable and we should not let it happen.”
Scottish Labour’s Net Zero and Energy Transport spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “Nicola Sturgeon appears to have taken on a new role as Boris Johnson’s spin doctor.
“The UK government tried to hide behind process and officials until a legal challenge by campaigners made it clear that the buck stops with Tory ministers.
“Nicola Sturgeon needs to get off the fence and shout from the rooftops about the damage Cambo would do.
“COP26 is around the corner, and time is running out to persuade Boris Johnson to do the right thing.
“It is utterly shameless for the First Minister to pay lip service to a just transition for workers when her own government has barely lifted a finger to make it a reality.
“It is essential that communities are not left behind in the journey to net-zero – but more dithering from the SNP won’t do a thing to help them.
“Only Labour are serious about delivering a jobs-first transition that will give us the modern energy system we need and meet the demands of the climate emergency.”
Meanwhile, the LibDems called on Sturgeon to rip up her deal with Heathrow Airport.
Alex Cole-Hamilton said scrapping the memorandum of understanding with the airport to support the principle of a third runway being built was the “bare minimum” the Scottish Government could do.
He said: "Nicola Sturgeon can deliver all the slick conference speeches that she likes but if she is not prepared to take concrete steps to reduce Scotland's emissions then it is all for nothing.
“The Scottish Government has admitted that our climate targets cannot be met if everyone flies as much as they used to. Yet the very same Scottish Government holds a contract with the single biggest polluter in the entire United Kingdom: Heathrow Airport.”