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by Louise Wilson
26 January 2022
Sturgeon says Scotland considering becoming ‘friend’ of group pushing for the phase out of oil and gas

Sturgeon says Scotland considering becoming ‘friend’ of group pushing for the phase out of oil and gas

The Scottish Government may reassess joining an international alliance on phasing out oil and gas after publication of its energy strategy later this year.

However, it is only considering becoming a “Friend” of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) – the lowest tier of membership – despite likely qualifying for higher tiers.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has encouraged the government to demonstrate “full commitment” to the climate by joining at the highest level possible.

The group also urged ministers to “get serious” about a timeline for phasing out North Sea production.

BOGA was launched at COP26 in Glasgow in November last year, but the Scottish Government opted not to join at the time.

Correspondence released to Holyrood as part of a Freedom of Information request revealed officials advised against joining while work was underway to refresh the energy strategy.

A memo also warned there was “significant risk in terms of messaging for both the offshore workforce and the sector” if the government signed up to BOGA.

This is despite a comparison between BOGA requirements and current government policy suggesting some alignment already.

To become an Associate member of BOGA, governments must adhere to at least one of the following:

  • domestic subsidy reform as part of a plan to end subsidies that support oil and gas
  • end international public financial support for production abroad
  • ended public financing for fossil fuel research and development activities
  • implemented other significant measures that contribute to reducing the supply oil and gas on the global market
  • signal an interest in developing Paris-aligned commitments for oil and gas production before 2025

The Scottish Government ended support for production abroad in November and officials also advised pre-existing policy positions “could demonstrate alignment” on subsidy reform.

However, advisers warned that “joining BOGA at this time would be to depart from this existing policy position and would pre-judge the outcome of the analytical work now underway”.

But they added BOGA membership “could be revisited upon the conclusion” of this programme of work.

Speaking last November, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her government would remain in “active discussions” about membership but added that decreasing reliance on oil and gas must not leave people “on the economic scrapheap”.

She said: "I’ve discussed possible membership of Scotland with Danish ministers directly. I would expect us, over the next period, to associate ourselves in one of those categories of membership."

A letter to the chairs of BOGA from the FM, also released under FOI laws, confirmed the government would seek to become a “Friend” of the alliance.

She wrote: “To support our transition domestically, the Scottish Government will publish a new energy strategy next year. To inform the strategy, we are carrying out an analysis of Scotland's energy requirements as we move to net zero.

“This research will help us determine how the sector can help deliver our contribution to the Paris targets, and how meeting our own energy needs can help build a new low-emission energy industry. Absolutely central to our work will be protecting and supporting those who currently work in oil and gas.

“As our evidence base grows, I would ask that we remain in contact, sharing knowledge and working towards Scotland becoming a Friend of BOGA.”

She also wrote to Oil and Gas UK confirming this intention.

The energy strategy is set to be published this spring, alongside a just transition plan.

Caroline Rance from Friends of the Earth said: “At a minimum, the Scottish Government should join as a ‘Friend’ of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance to support the aims of winding down oil and gas production.

“But of course, we urge them to do everything within their powers to go further, to recognise that there can be no new oil and gas fields if we’re to limit warming to 1.5C and to play their full part in delivering a managed phase out of oil and gas production and a just transition for workers. To show their full commitment, the Scottish Government should join the alliance at the highest level for which they are eligible.

“If the Scottish Government is serious about delivering a just transition, they need to get serious about the timeline for a managed phase out of oil and gas production in the North Sea.”

The Welsh Government joined the alliance as a founding Core member in November.

The UK Government said it had no plans to join.

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