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by Andrew Learmonth
12 August 2021
Nicola Sturgeon urges Boris Johnson to 'reassess' Cambo oilfield licence

Nicola Sturgeon urges Boris Johnson to 'reassess' Cambo oilfield licence

Nicola Sturgeon has effectively urged Boris Johnson to scrap plans to allow drilling at the controversial Cambo oil field. 

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the SNP leader asks for a review of all existing oil and gas licences where development has not taken place. This, she adds, would include the site off the west coast of Shetland. 

The First Minister has been under a huge amount of pressure in recent days to publicly oppose the development. Her call comes as the minority SNP administration enters the final stages of partnership talks with the Scottish Greens. 

An exploration licence for the Cambo field, which contains more than 800m barrels of oil, was granted in 2001. 

However, the Oil and Gas Authority is still considering whether to give approval for extraction which would last until 2047. 

Campaigners say work would lead to 132 million tonnes of CO2 emissions which would require an area of land some 1.5 times the size of Scotland to counteract.

The debate over the oil field has intensified in recent days after the publication of a landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warned that unless Net Zero is achieved by 2050, it will be too late to meet the target of keeping the global temperature rise to 1.5C.

In her letter, the First Minister called for a four-nation summit on the climate crisis ahead of November’s COP26 summit in Glasgow.

Ahead of that, she has also asked that the UK Government “commits to significantly enhancing the climate conditionality associated with offshore oil and gas production.”

Sturgeon added: "I am also asking that the UK Government agrees to reassess licences already issued but where field development has not yet commenced. That would include the proposed Cambo development.

“Such licences - some of them issued many years ago - should be reassessed in light of the severity of the climate emergency we now face, and against a robust Compatibility Checkpoint that is fully aligned with our climate change targets and obligations."

Friends of the Earth Scotland, said the First Minister hadn't gone far enough. Caroline Rance from the charity said Sturgeon had deferred to Johnson.

She said: “Faced with incredible pressure from people concerned about the climate impact of new oil and gas, the First Minister has rightly said the UK Government must review licenses for oil fields in light of the severity of the climate emergency. However, she has failed to actually state her Government’s opposition to Cambo or any new oil and gas.

“The Scottish Government’s own policy remains to encourage new oil exploration and drill for every last drop in the North Sea. If the First Minister wants to show leadership she must go further than calling on someone else to review their position.

"Nicola Sturgeon is deferring to Boris Johnson on the future of North Sea oil and gas when she must take a bold stance against Cambo and the climate devastation it will unleash."

The First Minister's letter comes after Labour leader Keir Starmer called for the Cambo project not to go ahead. The party also called on the First Minister to “set an example” ahead of COP26 and oppose the Cambo oil field.

Starmer said last week: “No, we don’t support it. It’s not consistent with the targets that we need to meet."

Scottish Labour's net-zero, energy and transport spokesperson Monica Lennon said the First Minister had now taken a "baby step towards having a position".

She said: “Scottish Labour has been urging Nicola Sturgeon to get off the fence and oppose the Cambo oil field plans in the face of climate catastrophe.

“In the wake of growing pressure from grassroots campaigners, she has taken a baby step towards having a position. Now is not the time to "reassess". It's time for Nicola Sturgeon to firmly and loudly oppose Cambo, once and for all.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said it was "welcome to see the Scottish Government start to come off the fence when it comes to the Cambo oil field, but it is clear there is still far too many hopes pinned on the oil and gas industry to get us out of the climate emergency.

"The IPCC report is very clear that we cannot wait for the development of new technologies, we must listen to the UN Secretary General and stop fossil fuel expansion entirely. That means revoking Cambo and no new oil and gas licenses whatsoever, with a just transition ensuring no worker is left behind.”

Last week, when asked about Cambo during a visit to Scotland, Johnson told media: “This was a contract that was signed in… was agreed in 2001 and we can’t just tear up contracts, there is a process to be gone through.

“But what we need to do is use this incredible potential of wind power, and turbines like this… they’ve only been going up in the last four or five years, the size that you’re looking at now, and they’re going to get even bigger.

“So the potential is absolutely enormous. We can power millions and millions of homes across the UK.”

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