A timetable must be set out for the end of oil and gas, partnered with a “truly just transition”, Sir Keir Starmer has said.
The Labour leader was speaking on the first day of his visit to Scotland, where he is stressing the need for leadership ahead of the Cop26 climate conference in November – a visit which coincides with the Prime Minister’s trip north of the border.
Sir Keir attacked Boris Johnson as being “missing in action” in the lead up to the conference, and told journalists on Wednesday there needed to be a firm timetable laid out to end the extraction and exploration of oil and gas in the North Sea.
“I think we’ve got to agree a timetable for it,” he said.
“It’s got to be subject to consensus and agreement and we’ve got to… bring communities with us on this, otherwise there will be a disconnect between the obligations that we have to deal with the climate crisis and the communities that are going to be affected.”
He added: “That’s why they deserve the strategic planning that we’ve been talking about.”
When asked what timescale he would look to usher in, the Labour leader said it would be subject to agreement with areas of the country which would be impacted, such as in the north east of Scotland.
“We’ll have to sit down and agree it, but we have to have a hard edged timetable,” the Labour leader said.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar added there needed to be a “truly just transition” away from fossil fuels, which would include moving workers from oil and gas into renewables, or other fields, to ensure job security.
He said: “We hear a lot about the just transition and we want to deliver a just transition, but a just transition is only truly just if you’re not decimating entire communities in the process and not losing thousands if not tens of thousands of jobs in the process.”
Mr Sarwar said there should be a “strategic approach” from both the UK and Scottish governments, adding: “If we are going to deliver a just transition and we are going to make sure people don’t fall into unemployment and we don’t decimate workers jobs in the north east, we’ve got to do the investment here and now in terms of those new industries of the future.
“So people can see the transition they’re going to make as you see oil and gas reduce and more on renewable forms of energy.”
Currently, an application is being mulled by the Oil and Gas Authority for another oil field near Shetland.
The Cambo field could produce up to 255 million barrels of oil, but would release an estimated 132 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Climate activists are steadfastly against the move, and Sir Keir said the UK Labour Party are too.
“No, we don’t support it. It’s not consistent with the targets that we need to meet,” he said.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the comments, despite the pledge for a just transition, show Labour has “abandoned” Aberdeen and the North East.
“People across the North East will be appalled to hear that Keir Starmer is happy to throw away their livelihoods by agreeing a hard edged timetable to shut down the North Sea sector,” he added.
“Labour’s plans would risk the 100,000 jobs that depend on our vital oil and gas industry.
“This position is potentially even more extreme than an SNP-Green coalition would hold. It’s beyond reckless, especially when jobs and Scotland’s economic recovery from Covid must be our top priority.”
Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed to have no knowledge of the Cambo proposals.
An SNP spokesman said: “Keir Starmer is renowned for fence sitting so using words like ‘hard edge’ without providing any explanation of what he means is just the latest insulting example that fools no one.
“He should also know better than making a token trip north of the border to preach about climate change in Scotland – the country with the most ambitious targets in the world led by an SNP Government committed to a just transition to net zero that is fair and leaves no-one behind.
“If the Labour leader continues to sit in the middle of the road his party will continue to be run over by Boris Johnson’s chaotic and untrustworthy Tory party. Starmer is out of touch and his party is destined to remain out of power.”
Oil and Gas UK External Relations Director Jenny Stanning said: “Announcing a premature end to UK-produced oil and gas wouldn’t just harm people’s jobs and the country’s energy security, it would undermine the homegrown transition we all want to see.
“Oil and gas companies are the same companies behind renewable and low carbon technologies, so it risks cutting off vital investment to solutions like hydrogen, carbon capture, wind and tidal energy that the UK needs to hit its net zero carbon emissions by 2050 target.
“That’s why it’s so important that all parties, unions and industry work together constructively to manage a just transition that ensures energy communities and the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on oil and gas for their livelihoods are not left behind.”