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Ex-SEPA boss says Cambo oilfield should not be allowed to go ahead

Ex-SEPA boss says Cambo oilfield should not be allowed to go ahead

A former chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has said the proposal for the Cambo oilfield off the coast of Shetland should not be allowed to go ahead.

The UK Government has come under pressure to veto further expansion of the site during the week of the publication of a damning report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) detailing the "unequivocal" human influence on global warming.

The dossier warned limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees “will be beyond reach” if emissions are not rapidly cut, leading UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres to warn the report "must sound a death knell" for fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who had been called upon to publicly oppose the Cambo plans, has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and asked him to "reassess" the development.

Professor James Curran, ex-SEPA chief and UK government reviewer of IPCC reports, said his own conclusion was "no, we cannot allow the Cambo oilfield to go ahead".

Curran is a former government reviewer of IPCC reports

In an wide-ranging interview for Holyrood's Politically Speaking podcast, he empathised with the difficult decision facing politicians on the matter, who campaigners believe should oppose the development, because of the pressure of those with vested interests.

Curran said: "I am genuinely feeling sympathy for our political leaders but they must be guided by their own values and ethics, and they must be as I said earlier, non-manipulative in their decision making, so let's see it all out in the open.

"But the IPCC report... was unequivocal in its conclusion that climate change is man made and on the back of that, the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, he said this IPCC report... 'must sound a death knell' for fossil fuels - a quite strong quotation there from him.

"And coincidentally the International Energy Agency some months before the release of the IPCC report stated that for a global net zero pathway - reaching net zero globally in 2050 - there should be no new oil and gas fields approved for development.

"So taking that as guidance, these guys have done a fantastic sifting of the evidence, both of them.

"The IPCC, the UN and the IEA have gone to great lengths to validate the findings summed up in those two quotes.

"We need to take that evidence very, very seriously, and the hit list needs to be coal. Let's get rid of coal first. Next comes oil. After that comes gas, so my conclusion is, no, we cannot allow the Cambo oilfield to go ahead."

The environmental expert, who also for a period founded and ran an eco-store and café in Glasgow, spoke about the importance of authentic leadership when it comes to tackling climate change.

For Curran that includes having a sense of personal trust in your own motives and values as a political leader, but also being self-questioning and reflective about decisions.

Asked if he thought the First Minister showed authentic leadership, he said: "I think she certainly shows all those signs to me. I've seen her on TV being driven by her own instincts, her own motives, her own values and ethics.

"I see her admitting to errors, I see her admitting to uncertainty, and I see her being quite open and honest that we're doing the best we can and these are the decisions we're going to make for these reasons, but we will learn and change if it looks like we've made mistakes.

"Those are some pretty key elements of authentic leadership and I'm not being political about any of that, I'm just expressing my sense of her as a First Minister and as a leader."

Asked about the Prime Minister, Curran said: "This whole conversation has been about science and I would need to see the evidence and, quite honestly, I see no evidence of that, no."

World leaders are due to gather at COP26 in Glasgow in November - the summit considered by many the last chance to minimise the worst effects of climate change - and Curran remains optimistic that the required progress can be achieved.

He said: "I'll never change my absolute belief that we will rise to the challenge. As I said, I think right near the beginning, we may be a little late, we may just be diving through the door as it is closing but we will definitely do it."

Listen to the full interview here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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