Programme for Government: Climate activists ‘disappointed’ with SNP’s oil and gas plans despite Greens influence

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have labelled climate measures in the Programme for Government “disappointing” despite the new influence of the Scottish Greens.

The deal struck between the SNP and Greens was partly intended to boost Scotland’s climate credentials ahead of hosting COP26 in November, but activists have criticised a lack of detail over plans to transform the oil and gas industry into renewable jobs and the absence of a timescale for phasing out fossil fuel extraction.

In her announcement, the First Minister told MSPs that her economic strategic will transform Scotland into a net zero nation in “a way that enhances prosperity, equality and wellbeing”.

Nicola Sturgeon said tackling the climate emergency was a “moral and economic imperative”.

The First Minster said: “We must act fast to decarbonise heat and transport – just as we have already done for electricity.”

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She added that the Scottish Government will implement the recommendations of the Just Transition Commission, set up to ensure workers are not left behind in the move away from oil and gas.

Ms Sturgeon added: “As an early commitment to that work, we will establish a 10-year, £500 million just transition fund for the north-east and Moray, recognising the particular challenges for the region of the transition from oil and gas to renewable and low-carbon sources of energy.”

Her plans include £1.8 billion to decarbonise homes as part of a previous pledge to upgrade 1 million homes by 2030.

The Programme for Government also included a promise that at least 10% of the total transport budget is spent on active travel by 2025 and investing £500 million to support green jobs and helping people to access training.

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Ms Sturgeon added: “That is essential to protect our economy from the severe consequences of Brexit and to achieve a net zero transition.

“We have already established a green jobs workforce academy, and later this month we will make the first allocations from the £100 million green jobs fund.

“We will also work to secure greater benefit from the renewables and low-carbon revolution for the Scottish supply chain, for example through the current ScotWind leasing round.

“We will invest £200 million this year and £1 billion over the parliamentary session in the Scottish National Investment Bank, which has as one of its key missions the transition to net zero.”

But activists were expecting the First Minister to go further with the detail of how Scotland will become net zero by 2045 in phasing out fossil fuels industries.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s director, Richard Dixon, said: “This year’s Programme for Government confirms the promises from the SNP election manifesto and the co-operation agreement with the Scottish Green Party, but gives disappointingly little further detail on timescales or processes.”

He added that there was no mention of what the just transition fund will be spent on, adding “there is no indication of how just transition will be funded elsewhere”, outside of the North East.

Dr Dixon stressed that “the continued silence in the commitment to establish a public energy company remains deeply concerning”.

He added: “While the Programme for Government acknowledges that ‘unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is incompatible with our climate obligations’ and that ‘the UK cannot continue with unlimited recovery of hydrocarbons if the aims of the Paris Agreement are to be met’, it is therefore disappointing that there are no commitments to phase out oil and gas extraction.

“There is no further detail on who will do what to deliver on the promised review of North Sea oil and gas in relation to climate targets.

“If this review is done properly it surely cannot fail to conclude that we need to phase out oil and gas extraction very rapidly. Until then the Scottish Government should take a precautionary approach and oppose any new oil and gas developments.”

Fabrice Leveque, Head of Policy at WWF Scotland, said the Programme for Government was a “welcome step” to tackling the climate crisis – highlighting plans to introduce a good food nation bill, designate highly protected marine areas and a pledge to ban the sale of peat for horticultural use.

He added: “It’s particularly welcome to see some new commitments in today’s Programme for Government to place Scotland on a path to a just and green recovery. If carried through, these will slash emissions, restore nature, and deliver new jobs and wider benefits to people now and for years to come.

“With all eyes on Scotland ahead of COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, it’s vital that these, and other policies, are implemented quickly to avoid the worst effects of climate change and further loss of nature.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992