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Patrick Harvie: Scotland is hampered by the UK’s fossil fuel addiction

A school student and activist takes part in the Global Strike for Climate rally in Edinburgh (Photo: Ewan Bootman/Shutterstock)
A school student and activist takes part in the Global Strike for Climate rally in Edinburgh (Photo: Ewan Bootman/Shutterstock)

The UN climate scientists have given what is, in effect, their final warning to world governments that there has been too much talk and not enough action to restrict global warming to a level that is survivable.

In terms of dramatically reducing emissions, “it’s now or never”, co-chair of the working group, Jim Skea, said. Investing in new fossil fuel production and power plants is “moral and economic madness”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned.

Yet, the UK Government’s energy strategy ignores this advice, actually expanding oil and gas in the midst of the climate emergency, with the approval of several new oil field developments off Scotland’s coast, including the one at Cambo, off the coast of Shetland.

This warning from the UN’s climate scientists is very stark indeed, with strong words from the secretary general about governments “lying” about their commitments. Sadly, we have to face the fact that the UK Government is one of those. Increasing fossil fuel production rather than beginning the transition away from it is playing Russian roulette with our future.

Nor is nuclear the answer. Apart from the eye-watering cost and legacy of toxic waste, new power stations would take decades to come online. We don’t have decades.

UK Government still have time to wake up

The IPCC are clear, however, that it is not too late. Energy policy is reserved, but the UK Government still have time to wake up, listen to the science and change direction.

Most people in Scotland will want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. With Greens in government, we are investing to lower the energy demand from buildings and transport, and we are acting to massively increase our renewable energy capacity.

Our Heat in Buildings Strategy will see more support for insulation, energy efficiency and zero-emissions heating, as well as promotion of local heat networks. This will reduce our reliance on gas, the volatile price of which plays such a big role in the cost of living crisis this year.

Much of this work, as well as public transport and active travel infrastructure, will be delivered by our local councils, which is why, at these elections, we are asking voters to “Think Global and Act Local” by electing more Green councillors.

Of course, Scotland could do so much more if we weren’t held back by the UK’s fossil fuel addiction

Because, even while the Tories continue to deny the urgent need to respond the overwhelming scientific clarity about climate breakdown, we can still provide the leadership, ambition and action that’s needed at a local level.

Scotland could do so much more

By working closely with workers and communities, councils can play a big part in a just transition away from oil and gas to ensure we have high quality, sustainable jobs in the alternatives.

Beatrice offshore wind farm, north of Caithness (Photo: SSE)

Of course, Scotland could do so much more if we weren’t held back by the UK’s fossil fuel addiction. With a quarter of Europe’s offshore renewable potential, we could be exporting clean energy.

Renewable energy both for our own needs and to export into Europe would address high energy bills, Vladimir Putin’s fossil fuel power grab, and the climate crisis. That’s the kind of greener future we can only get if we vote for it.


Patrick Harvie is Scottish Greens co-leader

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