We urgently need a just transition

This article first appeared in the Shetland Times.

In parliament recently I raised a new report, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Scotland and Stop Climate Chaos, called Quantifying the implications of the Paris Agreement: What role for Scotland? with the Environment Minister.

The report outlines the need to leave the majority of fossil fuel reserves we already know about in the ground and I was therefore dismayed at the response to reports that Total, at the end of last month, had made a major gas find off Shetland.

It really is very simple; for Shetland, Scotland, Europe and our planet; we cannot afford to use the reserves we already know about and if we want to prevent the worst excesses of climate change then we certainly cannot afford to seek out and exploit any new reserves.

Academic research commissioned by the Scottish Green Party shows that hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created if we bite the bullet and transition from our oil and gas based economy to one built on renewable energy sources.

When I raised this matter in the Parliament, I highlighted the important role the Highlands and Islands, not least the Shetland Isles, can play in this transition.

Shetland already has superb facilities at Pedersen’s yard in Lerwick for decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure and another site at Dales Voe has just been identified as the optimal location for an “ultra deep water” decommissioning port.

This is vital not only for Shetland but Scotland and the changing role for the North Sea and it should guarantee steady employment for years to come. We must focus on the jobs that can be created in new technologies, which are better for us all, and essential for our survival as a species. It is time to leave the age of fossil fuels behind us.

Scotland has one quarter of Europe’s tidal resource and one tenth of its wave resource. Our island communities are in prime position to take advantage of emerging technologies, such as those being developed across the water at the European Marine Energy Centre in Stromness. The opportunities to boost local economies and create jobs are staring us in the face, whilst a focus on continued oil and gas extraction, from both Scottish and UK Government’s, limits long-term opportunities and damages our climate change ambitions .

A proposed new wind farm in the Highlands will have its towers built in Motherwell and this emphasises the opportunities which exist for the whole of Scotland to benefit from investment in a cleaner economy.

Climate change is increasingly a focus for world leaders and, as highlighted by the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report this week, it’s vital Scotland seizes the day and becomes a world leader in green technologies.

This is not something that we can be allowed to fail at; to do so would invite catastrophe for our environment, our economy and our future. We need to end our reliance on finite fossil fuels and seize the opportunities available to us through our natural renewable sources such as wind, wave and tidal.