Scotland must “be careful” not to leave communities behind as it transitions away from oil and gas, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Giving a TED Talk in Edinburgh on Wednesday, the First Minister again refused to voice opposition to the Cambo oil field development proposed near Shetland which has proven controversial with politicians and environmental campaigners alike.
Sturgeon stressed the supply of oil and gas cannot be turned off completely in the short term because that may lead to a spike in imports, as well as economic problems caused by mass lay-offs.
She also repeated calls for licences to extract oil and gas from the North Sea to be reassessed by the UK Government given the current threat of climate change.
“We’ve got to be careful that we don’t leave people and communities behind in that transition,” the First Minister said.
“We’ve got to be careful we don’t switch domestic production to imports of oil and gas – that would be counter-productive.
“So the way in which we make the transition matters, but we can’t have business as usual, because if we keep telling ourselves we can rely on fossil fuels forever, then we’ll never make that transition and that’s the key point we’ve got to address.”
The First Minister also stressed the importance of small countries doing their part to tackle climate change.
“My point today is that yes, big countries matter, but the leadership of small nations matters too,” she said.
“It’s often states and regions and small nations that can step in when the bigger countries fail to act.”
When former US president Donald Trump took his country out of the Paris climate agreement during his tenure, it was a “coalition of states and cities that kept the momentum going”, the First Minister said.
“If we raise our ambition and if we follow that through with action, then we can spur the bigger countries to go further and faster too,” she said.
With Cop26 coming to Glasgow at the end of this month, Sturgeon said it is imperative that leaders leave Scotland’s biggest city able to “look the next generation in the eye”, knowing they have done enough to stave off what scientists have identified as humanity’s biggest threat.
“Glasgow, and the agreement that comes out of Glasgow, must – in detail, not in rhetoric, in detailed funding commitments and in other commitments – have the ability to meet the Paris objective,” she said.
“If it doesn’t do that, then we will be letting down future generations and in my view that is unthinkable and we should not let it happen.”
Scottish Labour’s net zero spokeswoman, Monica Lennon, accused the First Minister of being “Boris Johnson’s spin doctor”.
She added: “The UK Government tried to hide behind process and officials, until a legal challenge by campaigners made it clear that the buck stops with Tory ministers.
“Nicola Sturgeon needs to get off the fence and shout from the rooftops about the damage Cambo would do.”
While Scottish Tory net zero spokesman Liam Kerr said: “This is poor leadership from Nicola Sturgeon, playing to the crowd, rather than doing what is best for the country by backing Cambo.
“Nicola Sturgeon fails to understand that even with a growing renewables sector, there is still going to be a demand for oil and gas for years to come.
“Demand that could be met by our own means using our skilled workforce, instead of having to import oil and gas from overseas, which would only increase global emissions.”