Reaching net zero is going to be one of the toughest challenges of our generation.
It will require difficult decisions and changes to our way of life. To meet Scotland and the UK’s ambitious climate change targets, we are going to have to raise our game substantially. There is no doubt about that and I believe the oil and gas industry and its workers accept that more than most people.
But I will never give in to the many opponents of our North Sea sector who claim that only radical change will work. They insist that climate change can only be tackled by abandoning the oil and gas industry. They refuse to contemplate the truth, that our oil and gas industry still has a long future ahead of it. They alter the meaning of the term ‘just transition’ and use it as a smoke-screen to conceal what they are really saying – that they want an end to the oil and gas industry full stop.
It’s incredibly disappointing to see that the SNP Government have started to shift towards those extremist positions. Nicola Sturgeon has now decided we should “reassess” future oil and gas projects, including the Cambo oil field. In pursuit of a coalition deal with the Greens, she seems prepared to cast aside an industry that the SNP once championed.
By contrast, the Scottish Conservatives are fighting for the future of our oil and gas industry and the 100,000 jobs it supports. We are working all the time with our UK Government colleagues to ensure the industry gets the continued support it deserves, for investment such as the £16 billion Transition Deal secured this year. We are the only party in the Scottish Parliament who wholeheartedly support the Cambo oil field.
We are resolute and proud backers of this new field because we reject the misconception that tackling climate change demands opposition to oil and gas.
In fact, the opposite is true. Tackling climate change demands working closely with oil and gas. A fair and sensible transition to net zero is the only valid course of action.
A radical move that abandons oil and gas would risk higher energy prices for consumers as we were forced to import more from abroad. It would risk our energy security, leaving us without a stable supply. It would risk 100,000 jobs and setback all the households dependent on our oil and gas industry.
In the middle of a pandemic, when we must focus on economic recovery, a triple-whammy of higher prices, less security and job losses is unthinkable. It would be the most reckless act of self-sabotage.
And it would damage efforts to tackle climate change by losing public trust. Abandoning communities with unjust and extreme measures would be wrong but more than that, it won’t work.
The only way to meet this challenge is to bring people together in a united national effort to transition safely and sensibly to net zero. That won’t happen if the oil and gas industry is thrown to the wolves.