Scottish climate policy is hypocritical, contradictory and counter-productive
The Scottish government boasts of stringent targets to cuts emissions while squeezing North Sea oil reserves and approving new opencast coal mines. No wonder people are taking into their own hands to highlight this hypocrisy
It’s the same everywhere. Governments are simultaneously seeking to minimise the demand for fossil fuels and maximise the supply.
In its Low Carbon Transition paper, for example, the UK government makes elaborate plans for cutting the consumption of oil, gas and coal. It then reveals that “[We will] maximise the economic production of oil and gas from the North Sea“.
The 2007 energy white paper says it intends to “maximise economic recovery of the oil and gas from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) and from remaining coal reserves“.
The contradiction is shocking and ridiculous. But nowhere is it starker than in Scotland.
The Scottish government boasts of setting the world’s most stringent target for greenhouse gas reductions: 42% by 2020.
This beats the Westminster target (34%) and leaves all other administrations standing. If you knew nothing more about Scotland, you would conclude that it had become the rich world’s greenest nation.
But at the same time the Scottish government has been trying to squeeze every last drop out of both the North Sea oil reserves and its substantial coal seams. Take a look at the opencast mining stats here.
As you can see, Scotland accounts for the great majority of all opencast coal produced in the UK (which is another way of saying all coal, as deep-mining is more or less dead here) and for the majority of the permitted reserves waiting to be dug. More importantly, as it reflects current Scottish government policy, it also accounts for almost all the new coal workings that were granted planning permission in the UK in 2008. Out of 6.29m tonnes of new production, Scotland will account for 5.75m tonnes, or 91%. The new workings will dig up 1,200 hectares of land. Seven new pits were given planning permission last year and none were refused.
So if you were to describe Scottish government policy as hypocritical, contradictory and counter-productive, you wouldn’t be stating the half of it.
But while the government undermines its own targets, some people in Scotland are putting its climate change policy into effect. The Scottish camp for climate action has declared war on opencast coalmining. Yesterday people associated with it did what the government should have done years ago, and cut the conveyor belt used to carry coal from the Glentaggart pit in Lanarkshire to the local rail terminal.
Now they propose to take on other pits, as well as Scotland’s biggest coal-burning power stations.