Good Sturgeon vs. Evil Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon (centre) celebrating the opening of the ‘Innovation Hub’ at the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, 2017. Shell Director Steve Phimister is first on left. Image credit: Scottish Government.

Nicola Sturgeon really hates climate change. No really. She’s sick of it.

At the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn she called for “urgent action in the next two years” and for rich countries to do their “fair shares”. She said Scotland would go further than the Paris Agreement to enact a “a just transition to create new jobs, to protect our natural environment, and to tackle pollution and save lives.”

She concluded: “Tackling climate change is an overwhelming moral obligation that we owe to this and future generations…

“Our ambitions must live up to the scale of the challenge, and our actions must live up to our ambitions.”

Quite deliberately the First Minister’s speech supported key demands of the climate movement. She repeatedly touted the 1.5 degrees aim, not 2 degrees, and called for a just transition and climate justice.

Problem is, just a few months before she was saying something that doesn’t quite add up.

She told delegates at the Oil and Gas UK conference in Aberdeen that “the Scottish Government will continue to support the oil and gas sector as strongly as we possibly can.” – following a similar theme at a similar theme in 2015 when she said “I believe that North Sea oil is a fantastic asset for Scotland and will continue to be so for decades to come.”

At that same speech in 2017 she went further:

“As I’ve hopefully made clear throughout all of my remarks, the North Sea will continue to produce oil for decades to come. It still contains up to 20 billion barrels of recoverable reserves.

“Our primary aim – and I want to underline and emphasise this – our primary aim is to maximise economic recovery of those reserves.”

A back of the envelope calcultation suggests that, taking the First Minister at her word, the burning of 20 billion barrels of oil would release 8.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere.

8.6 billion tonnes of carbon emissions. I thought I would just underline and emphasise that.

That’s more than the annual emissions of every country in the EU plus the United States.

She has called for tax breaks and incentives, chastising the UK Government for not doing enough to support further oil extraction, whilst announcing millions of pounds in new Scottish Government funding for the oil industry.

The point of this support is made clear: “By doing so, it will help them to develop and manufacture equipment which can then be exported around the world.”

Sturgeon isn’t just satisfied with complete recovery of Scotland’s Oil, she also wants Scotland to be breaking new fossil fuel frontiers abroad.

If the Scottish Government is serious about delivering climate justice they need to come up with a plan to keep Scotland’s oil in the ground.


* Emissions of burning oil calculated using this. Data on annual emissions of EU and USA sourced here (4,632,757,000 tonnes annual emissions of USA in 2015, 3,188,342,000 tonnes annual emissions of EU in 2015).

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