Scottish Greens support Cambo oilfield protests

The proposed Cambo oilfield in the north-western Shetland Islands contradicts the UK’s international commitments to reduce emissions, demonstrating their disregard for the climate ahead of COP26.

An oilfield in the ocean
An oilfield in the ocean

Carlos Aranda

Green World

Green Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs) have backed recent rallies against the proposed new Cambo oilfield off the coast of the Shetland Islands and are now urging the Scottish Parliament to formally object on environmental grounds.

The UK’s new fossil fuel investment could produce 170 million barrels of oil and generate the same emissions as running 16 coal-fired power plants for a year. (The Guardian)

This proposal has particularly sparked outrage from environmental organisations such as Greenpeace because it does not align with the UK Government’s promise to put an end to new oil exploration licenses, in line with its commitments to the Paris Agreement and international advisory reports. 

Despite the country already emitting carbon dioxide above healthy limits, Oil and Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie claimed that opening a new oil field is ‘part of the low carbon journey’. The oilfield is proposed to operate until 2050, years after Scotland is set to reach net-zero emissions.

The Government has pledged it will bar new oil exploration licenses unless the driller passes a ‘climate compatibility checkpoint’ test that proves both the necessity for new oil and steps taken to reduce its carbon footprint.

However, because the Cambo project is instead an extension of an existing oilfield, owned by drilling company Siccar Point, it does not have to meet the same requirements of the ‘climate checkpoint’ test for new licenses.

A government spokesperson said: “There is no loophole. The climate checkpoint will apply to future oil and gas rounds, while the Cambo oilfield was originally licensed in 2001. While we are working hard to drive down demand for fossil fuels, there will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas over the coming years, as recognised by the independent Climate Change Committee.”

Mel Evans, head of Greenpeace’s oil campaign, said: “If the UK Government approves Cambo we could torpedo the world’s chances of meeting climate targets, and Boris Johnson will be a figure of failure on the world stage at the upcoming COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.”

Greenpeace has threatened to take the government to court over the decision, sparking discussions across Scotland and the UK.

As well as climate scientists, it is clear that much of the public oppose the Cambo project, with tens of thousands of people signing a Friends of the Earth petition calling on the UK Government to contest the proposals.

Last month, activists blocked the entrance of the Edinburgh UK Government hub to rally against the project, demonstrating their disappointment that Scottish ministers had not stated unequivocal opposition to the plans.

Several members of the Scottish Green Party have backed these demonstrations, with MSPs speaking to Scottish Parliament at the gates. Lorna Slater, co-leader of the party, said: “[Westminster has] no respect for their legal obligations to a treaty that they signed with the international community. No respect for international law. No respect for future generations. 

“Three quarters of people in the UK support ending oil and gas extraction. The people get it. But the government still don’t. The stakes could not be higher. The climate emergency is the defining challenge of our age.”

The Scottish Greens have put forward a motion opposing Cambo, citing the International Energy Agency (IEA) report as evidence that new oil exploration contradicts international climate agreements. They have persuaded support from several Labour members already.

MSP Arianne Burgess says, “I want to help communities in places like Shetland thrive, become sustainable and secure for future generations.

“The COP26 climate summit is the last best chance to pull the world back from the brink of an irreversible climate catastrophe. If the UK government does give the go-ahead for the exploitation of Cambo then it will be signalling to the world, and its own citizens, that it’s not interested in playing its part."