COP26 summit begins with UK government undermining fight against climate change

Scotland needs carbon-capture technology to fight climate change and be at the environmental forefront. However the move has been blocked by the UK government.

The devastating decision comes just ahead of the start of the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and leading industry representatives say that the Westminster Tory decision risks “another wave of deindustrialisation” in Scotland.

The UK government’s decision not to invest in the Peterhead carbon-capture cluster is not only a snub to Scotland but shows how ineffective Douglas Ross and the Scottish Conservatives are. According to the leading energy industry figure, Sir Ian Wood, the choice made “little economic or environmental sense”.

The Acorn cluster was a step ahead of other proposals. It had the ability to use existing infrastructure to hit the ground running. Pipelines under the North Sea could be used to send carbon beneath the surface for storage. Beyond infrastructure, the immense expertise of those working in the oil and gas industry means the project would have been supported by a wholly prepared and available workforce.

While the projects in the North of England are evidently worthy of development, the Peterhead Acorn cluster is where the smart and effective investment should have gone. Instead, the COP26 climate change conference begins in Scotland with the UK government actually undermining the fight against climate change.

Scotland’s First Minister is calling for “credible action, not face-saving slogans” to come from next week’s COP26 summit in Glasgow. Nicola Sturgeon is absolutely right to stress that concrete action is required to “keep 1.5 alive”, the target to limit global temperature increases to within 1.5C.

She said: “Governments at all levels have a responsibility and Scotland is determined to play our full part. Our ability to do that depends on our own climate credibility – Scotland cannot urge other countries to set and meet ambitious targets if we fail to do that ourselves.”

The Scottish government has committed to achieving net-zero by 2045 with an interim goal of reducing emissions by 75 per cent by 2030. In Scotland these targets have been set and are part of the world’s toughest, most ambitious legislative framework on climate change. Lloyds bank’s recent study into the UK’s green growth potential gave Scotland a score of 82.6 out of 100, compared to England’s 46, Wales 63.5, and Northern Ireland’s 42.7.

Not that a reminder should be required about the scale of global challenge. However, the World Meteorological Organisation has just warned that the build-up of warming gases in the atmosphere rose to record levels during 2020 despite the pandemic. Higher than average amounts of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide were released into the atmosphere, which is extremely bad news for the rising temperature.

Even although carbon output reduced last year, the increase in the level in the atmosphere has still been larger than the average between 2011-2020. More than 120 leaders from around the world will be in Scotland in the next weeks for the COP26 conference. Time is really running out for governments to make the necessary commitments and act on them to stop global warming passing the point of no return. All of us have a part to play. The next generations will depend on the decisions we make in the next days at COP26.

This article first appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News on 26 October 2021