Sturgeon hints Scotland will join alliance of countries phasing out fossil fuels

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the transition away from fossil fuels must be a just one (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the transition away from fossil fuels must be a just one (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

Scotland is likely to join a coalition of countries setting targets for when to phase out the production of fossil fuels, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance has been launched by Denmark and Costa Rica to halt new drilling, with France, Greenland Ireland, Sweden, Wales and the Canadian province Quebec signing up as founding members.

Scotland is yet to sign up, and First Minister Ms Sturgeon said complex negotiations are ongoing because of the country’s long history of fossil fuel extraction.

She stressed she wants to end Scotland’s reliance on fossil fuels “as fast as possible”, but in a way that does not leave workers in the oil and gas sector “on the economic scrapheap”.

Asked why Scotland has not yet agreed to be part of the alliance, Ms Sturgeon told the PA news agency: “We’re actually in active discussions with them about joining.

We've got to do that in a way that is as fast as possible, but... in a way that doesn't simply increase our dependence on imported oil and gas and doesn't leave the 100,000 people currently working in oil and gas on the economic scrapheap

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister

“But there are different categories of membership and therefore we’re going through an assessment as to what category – if we did choose to join – would best suit our circumstances.

“I’ve discussed possible membership of Scotland with Danish ministers directly, I would expect us, over the next period, to associate ourselves in one of those categories of membership.

“It’s not the easiest message for a country like Scotland that has a long history and a big oil and gas sector here to say that we must – to use the terminology of the organisation – move beyond oil and gas.

“We must do that as quickly as possible.

“But for somebody like me, stating that is the easy bit.

“We’ve got to do that in a way that is as fast as possible, but also just, so in a way that doesn’t simply increase our dependence on imported oil and gas and, crucially, doesn’t leave the 100,000 people currently working in oil and gas on the economic scrapheap.”

Ms Sturgeon drew criticism from Friends of the Earth Scotland after the nation was absent from the original membership of the alliance.

Its director Richard Dixon said: “Nicola Sturgeon is keen to use the language of climate justice and be photographed with Greta Thunberg but at some point her fine rhetoric has to translate into a commitment to stopping the oil and gas production that is driving the climate crisis.

“Refusing to join the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance is a failure to follow through on her Government’s recent change of position to no longer support unlimited oil and gas extraction.

“Instead of siding with oil and gas companies, the Scottish Government must ensure that people and communities working in oil and gas are at the heart of planning a fair and fast phase-out of fossil fuels, whilst scaling up renewable energy to help create decent green jobs.

“It is great to see this alliance putting the focus on fossil fuel phase-out but it’s concerning to see many major big oil and gas producing nations unwilling to sign up.

“When you’re in a hole, you have to stop digging. To meet the 1.5C goal, we need to keep coal, oil and gas safe in the ground.”

Scottish Green climate spokesman Mark Ruskell said: “I have raised the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance with ministers so I am glad Scotland is in discussions to be part of this progressive alliance which is only going to grow over time.

“It’s a shame we are not signed up on day one, but I will continue to push ministers to be part of this critical initiative.

“Determining how much fossil fuels Scotland needs and how much we can afford to burn under the Paris Agreement should provide a starting point to draw a line under future oil and gas development in Scotland.”

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