woman holding Planet over Profit placard
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published recently is a wake-up call in a long line of warnings to governments: take the urgent and bold action needed to avert climate catastrophe.

One of the starkest messages from the IPCC report is that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5C will be beyond reach. To this end, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned that countries should end new fossil fuel exploration and production, calling the IPCC report a “code red for humanity.”

With all eyes on Scotland ahead of COP26, it has never been more important to meet our obligations to the world and set an example. This means taking an unequivocal position on new oil and gas plans, such as the proposed Cambo oil field off the west coast of Shetland.

The proposed development from Siccar Point Energy and Shell will see the field produce oil and gas for approximately 25 years. In the first phase alone, developers want to extract up to 170 million barrels of oil – the emissions from which are equivalent to running a coal-fired power station for 18 years.

The International Energy Agency recently stated that no new oil and gas fields should be developed if we are to limit global warming to 1.5C. But both the UK and Scottish Government’s official policy is to maximise recovery of oil and gas, despite this being in direct contradiction to their efforts to reduce fossil fuel use.

During his recent visit to Scotland, it was worrying to hear Boris Johnson deny knowledge of the Cambo proposal. When young climate activists turned to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for clarity, she promised she was on their side while shirking responsibility. The Scottish Government has since called on Boris Johnson to ‘reassess’ oil and gas licences already issued – stopping short of unequivocal opposition and failing to take a principled stance on the issue.

Meanwhile, the people-powered Stop Cambo campaign is gaining momentum. This is thanks to the courage and passion of citizens across Scotland and beyond. They deserve to know that our political leaders understand the science and are willing to take a position.

Tackling the climate emergency will require considerable economic change, and that change must benefit workers and communities. Right now, the vast majority of the financial benefit from fossil fuels goes to a small number of shareholders, but the costs are borne by all of us as the planet pays the price of a changing climate. It’s inspiring that so many of the green energy businesses of the future are co-operatives, with community energy co-ops leading the way here in Scotland and across the world in ensuring that workers and communities benefit from our move towards net zero.

A credible energy plan must involve a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy; decision-making must directly involve workers, unions and affected communities. Ahead of COP26, we should be leading the way in investing in green community-owned energy, not approving further oil exploration and development. I want to see the Scottish Government get off the fence and unequivocally oppose Cambo so that we can welcome the international community to Glasgow with our integrity intact.