In November the UK will host global climate change talks, COP26 and politicians from across the world will descend on Glasgow. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described the conference as “our best, perhaps our only chance to address” climate change which she says “remains the greatest challenge facing this planet.”
In March, the UK government published its North Sea Transition Deal, where it unveiled plans to keep licensing new oil and gas in Scotland’s North Sea, subject to so-called ‘climate compatibility checks’. But despite its more ambitious targets for emission reduction compared to the rest of the UK, the Scottish government is yet to object to new oil and gas.
Tens of thousands of Scots are supporting a petition calling for green jobs and energy instead of no new oil and gas, launched by Friends of the Earth Scotland, Greenpeace and Platform. People in Scotland demand that our government lives up to its promises on climate change– that means ending support for new fossil fuels, while protecting Scottish jobs. Here’s how.
1. Publicly call for no new oil & gas
The SNP’s recent climate change plans failed to end support for the oil and gas industry and in 2017 it backed UK plans to continue oil and gas extraction. Yet two thirds of Scots agree it’s time to wind down North Sea oil and gas. Scotland can’t keep relying on the fossil fuels that created this catastrophic climate emergency– and delaying the inevitable will only lead to insecurity for workers who’ve spent decades powering our homes and businesses and delays seizing opportunities to build the green industries of the future.
The world’s leading energy industry group, the IEA, has advised that countries cannot license new oil and gas if we are to meet our internationally agreed climate commitments. Meanwhile, Denmark is not signing off any new oil and gas licences from the North Sea. By leaving new oil and gas licences on the table, Boris Johnson has left the UK looking isolated– and Nicola Sturgeon is yet to distance herself.
The power to decide new oil and gas licences lies with Westminster– but that doesn’t stop Holyrood from speaking out. Instead of supporting Scotland’s oil and gas industry, the Scottish government should push Westminster to change course.
2. Give oil and gas workers a say in planning how to phase out fossil fuels
Rig workers deserve a seat at the table after spending their lives doing risky, insecure work– and the last thing they deserve is to be left high and dry like miners and shipbuilders were in the 1980s. Workers can help shape how we move away from fossil fuels in a way that is fair for them, their families and communities.
Recently Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Platform surveyed oil workers and found the vast majority would consider moving into another energy sector. Oil and gas workers have the skills and experience needed for other offshore energy sectors, like offshore and floating wind– but they’re not being supported.
Many rig workers we spoke to feel let down by both Scottish and Westminster governments and they want to be heard. One said “I want to have fairly secure employment for the remainder of my working life and that’s just not going to be viable in the oil and gas industry. “To be in an industry that’s growing, versus one that’s declining, that’s really what it’s all about to me.
3. Create a government funded plan for retraining available to all
Nicola Sturgeon created a commission to look into creating a just transition from fossil fuels to green energy. But despite some positive developments, there’s still no long-term Scottish government plan to retrain workers so they can get good green jobs. The Just Transition Commission’s initial report says “opportunities for retraining…should be identified” but it gives no specifics and none have since materialised from Nicola Sturgeon’s government.
Holyrood, with the support of the UK government, needs to provide funds to anyone currently or previously employed in the oil and gas industry to retrain for renewable energy. While the Scottish government has recently provided £62 million for energy companies in the wake of the pandemic and in the face of falling oil prices, they have yet to earmark money to retrain the workers who power the industry and our country.
4. Create guaranteed unionised, green jobs with secure contracts for offshore workers
The volatility of oil markets has left many without work. By September 2020 nearly 43% of offshore workers surveyed had been furloughed or made redundant since the start of the pandemic. The RMT union, representing offshore energy workers, have highlighted that tens of thousands of jobs are currently at risk because of ‘oil price wars and the pandemic.’
If the Scottish government puts long term plans in place to invest in green energy projects they can create more secure jobs for workers and create a more secure future for Scotland. Wind power is set to create tens of thousands of new UK jobs and become the cheapest form of energy. Plans are already in place for the “world’s largest” floating wind project off the coast of Aberdeenshire, in Aberdeen currently more than 10% of jobs are in oil and gas. While projects like these are promising, Scotland needs a long term industrial plan involving a wide range of green energy and infrastructure funded with government money.
5. Show Boris Johnson the way on climate change
Boris Johnson says the UK is leading on climate change and is hosting two global summits this year– the G7 and COP26 global climate talks. But while the UK government claims to be a climate leader in the run up, many of its policies are taking us in the opposite direction.
Scotland has shown climate leadership by committing to reduce its carbon emissions at a faster pace than the rest of the UK and increasing its renewable energy power supply to a greater extent. But not enough has been done to meet its ambitious climate targets. As it discusses a formal cooperation deal with the Scottish Greens, now is the time to go big.
Scotland needs to transform key sectors and make progress on electricity generation, energy storage and transport. These demands are backed by trade unions such as Scottish Trade Union Congress, Communication Workers Union Scotland, Public and Commercial Services Union Scotland, Unite Scotland and Unison Scotland.
As the eyes of the world turn to Glasgow in November, we’re calling on Nicola Sturgeon to show the UK government– and the world– how to properly protect both climate and communities. As The Daily Record says the transition to green energy “is a golden opportunity for Scotland”– one not to be missed.