Oil Must End

Today’s statement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling for the “reassessment” of the opening of new oil and gas fields shows the power of public pressure. Had it not been for a couple of young activists directly asking the FM to oppose the new Cambo oil field and for the video of her side-stepped non-answer going viral I have no doubt that she would have let the decision to drill slide. We may even have been treated to the energy minister welcoming the decision. Public Pressure works though. That video made the decision to stay silent much more painful than to finally – days later – speak out against the decision to proceed. There’s a lesson for the independence movement in there.

This week, the IPCC published their latest “code red” warning about the state of the climate and the need for drastic action but we’ve known for years now that that action will include an end to oil extraction long before we’ve drilled every last drop from new and existing fields. In 2019, Friends of the Earth Scotland published their report “Sea Change” which stated that the amount of oil within the fields that the UK is currently already drilling already exceeds what is allowable under its Paris Accord obligations. To put it more bluntly, the UK literally cannot afford to open ANY new oil and gas fields if it wants to meet its climate targets. And the existing fields must be closed before they have been completely drained.

It is disappointing that Nicola Sturgeon has not followed this science when writing her letter to Boris Johnson. In it, she does not directly state that the field should not go ahead but merely that licenses issued but not yet activated “should be reassessed in light of the climate emergency…and against a robust Compatibility Checkpoint that is fully aligned without our climate change targets and obligations”. As stated, if we follow the science, we already know that these new fields would fail such a checkpoint and thus should not be allowed to go ahead. This should be said clearly. Instead, it appears that the FM doesn’t want to be the one to say it, but would really like someone else to say it for her.

It is time for a planned end to oil and gas with a definite and determined cut off. This starts with saying no to new fields and to further exploration (as Greenland has done), it also means setting a finite ceiling to the amount of oil that can be extracted from UK territory and a definite roadmap to closing existing fields as we have called for in our recent paper 21 For 21.

Energy and offshore drilling being reserved matters there are limits to what Scotland can do if and when Johnson declines Sturgeon’s request but this isn’t to say that nothing that can be done. Devolved powers were used to effectively block new nuclear power in Scotland as well as onshore fracking. The Scottish Government should immediately reassess what powers it has to frustrate any attempt by the UK to expand oil and gas extraction. This could mean using planning laws wherever infrastructure to support such expansion comes onshore. It may be possible to use regulatory powers to render it difficult to operate in Scotland. Or use devolved tax powers to make it impossible to operate profitably. Or it could be that Scotland announces that plans for independence are being accelerated in light of the demands of the climate emergency. Whatever the options are, they cannot be to simply stand at the sidelines and allow these things to happen on our watch. The Scotland that bestrides the world stage announcing “world-leading climate targets” is a very different country from one that meekly whispers “Will no one rid me of this turbulent climate emergency?”

2 thoughts on “Oil Must End”

  1. Sorry, disagree strongly with this idiotic nonsense. The ‘climate change’ emergency is the construct of middle class academic elite, who were likely employed & paid by the public sector. Those who will profit are greedy business men & quangos. Oil has brought Scotland many benefits & wealth, but not EVERYONE in Scotland has benefited from it. This is shocking middle class ignorance. I remember only having a one bar electric fire & no double glazing. I WILL NOT go back to only electric power. Rip out my gas central heating over my dead body! Ignorant young activists are likely from a middle class background & do not know what life was like before oil, in poor communities or abroad. Sorry, common weal – you do not speak for all Scotland or all Scots. I have been environmentally aware since early 1980’s, before it was ‘popular’. I do not agree that all electric is the way to go. Electric power & batteries most unstable. Ripping up sea beds for precious minerals e.g. lithium. Please educate young people they don’t NEED latest phones, pc’s & laptops. The west is very wasteful of precious metals & minerals used in manufacture of these, while other countries starve. Don’t be hypocritical & stop preaching this ignorant & patronising garbage to Scots. Most ordinary Scots know it is nothing to do with climate change and ALL to do with lining greedy MP’s, MSP’s, & business men’s pockets. Many, such as CEO of Octopus Energy have made deal with the Chinese in production of smart meters for example. (Simple google search will confirm).

    1. What you’ve described here is, I agree, the very worst way to decarbonise heating. A Green New Deal is about far more than decarbonising and if we keep going with the rush for the cheap, privatised option, it’s what we’ll get. We’ll all pay even more than we currently do for heating cold, inadequate homes.

      Our Common Home Plan involves making sure our homes are properly (and sustainably) insulated so that we can reduce heating demand as much as possible (the best retrofits can reduce heat demand by 90% and although not every house can be easily adapted to that degree, we should all get help to adapt our homes as much as possible).

      We don’t favour just using electricity for heating – certainly not conventional resistive heating but also not heat pumps in many cases – as even with demand reduction, the cost to the users and the load on the National Grid would be prohibitive and not very future proof. Instead, we favour using District Heating Networks as much as possible (as is common in mainland Europe, especially Denmark) and we favour these being heated with renewable sources such as solar thermal and geothermal in addition to renewable electricity, hydrogen or biomass where appropriate. That way, no matter the future price of heat, you can get the cheapest source without having to replace your heat exchanger or boiler every time.

      Finally, we completely agree with you on other resource reduction. The Common Home Plan has a comprehensive description of a Circular Economy which would greatly reduce the need to replace phones, PCs etc just because a single component breaks and would mandate that they should be easy to repair and to break down into their components so that precious resources like their batteries can be remanufactured and recycled to reduce the need to mine fresh materials for every phone.

      You can read more about our Green New Deal plan here: /policies/the-common-home-plan/

      There’s a lot in there that I think you’ll already agree with. Climate aside, we believe this is the kind of society that would make a lot of us a lot happier to live in.

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