COP26: Nicola Sturgeon says Cambo oil field should 'not get the green light' as she vows Scotland must go 'further and faster' in tackling climate change

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has declared she does not think the Cambo oil field should be given the green light as she revealed the COP26 summit has left her with a “renewed sense of responsibility to go further and faster” in tackling climate change.

Reflecting at Holyrood on the outcomes of the climate conference and its implications for her government’s own policies, Ms Sturgeon admitted Scotland could only “speak with credibility” on the issue if it meets its own net zero targets

She said she felt “pride” at the leadership Scotland had shown during the event, but stressed the government’s focus would now be “firmly on delivery” in the months and years ahead.

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Ms Sturgeon also told MSPs that she did not think the new Cambo oil field west of Shetland should be approved, but stressed that ultimately it was not her decision.

Authority for approving new oil and gas permits is reserved to the UK Government.

But the First Minister had come under sustained pressure to set out direct opposition to the move, having previously only called on Boris Johnson to “reassess” the application from Shell and Siccar Point Energy for the oil field.

Ms Sturgeon has been widely lauded for raising Scotland’s profile throughout COP26, and becoming the first developed nation to set aside financing to help developing countries deal with climate-related loss and damage – a contentious issue during the negotiations.

However, her Government has failed to meet its annual target for cuts to greenhouse gas emissions for three consecutive years, a fact seized upon by opposition politicians in the chamber.

Net zero and energy secretary Michael Matheson

In a statement to the Parliament on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said that during COP26, “the eyes of the world have been firmly on Scotland, and we have shown the best of our country to the world”.

Referencing the Glasgow Climate Pact, she praised UK COP president Alok Sharma for working “tirelessly” to secure what she described as “the best possible outcome”.

Even so, she warned the world was “still on a path to temperature increases of well over 2C”, and said it was vital for countries to come back next year with “substantially increased nationally determined contributions” to further reduce their emissions.

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COP26: What will be the legacy for Glasgow from climate summit?
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addresses MSPs at Holyrood. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA Wire
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She also said it was “utterly shameful” the developed world had not delivered the $100bn (£74m) of funding to vulnerable nations promised at COP15 way back in 2009, and noted that although the cover text of the Glasgow pact agreed the need to move away from fossil fuels, the language had been “watered down in the final moments”.

Ms Sturgeon said another of her government’s objectives was “to use COP to challenge ourselves to go further and faster in our own journey to net zero”, and noted that it has “moved away from our previous commitment to maximum economic recovery of oil and gas”.

However, Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “This is the same First Minister who claimed almost 100 per cent of all electricity we use is from renewables when, in fact, just over half of electricity consumption in Scotland last year was from renewables.

“Her government’s renewables target was missed and progress has stalled. The SNP has missed its own legal emissions targets for the last three years.

"Setting ambitious targets is great, but what the planet needs is action, so can the First Minister explain how her government will deliver a lasting legacy for COP26 by finally meeting their own targets?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “In terms of our own targets, Scotland is a world leader, but the bar of world leadership is too low. [A total of] 97 per cent of our net electricity consumption is from renewable sources. We now need to replicate that in terms of heat, transport and agriculture.

“We have legally binding annual targets – most other countries don’t have those. What that is designed to do is to make sure that in years where we fall short, we are legally obliged to catch up, so that we remain on track for the 2030 and 2045 targets.

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“We have missed marginally the last three years’ annual target. That’s why we’ve published a catch-up plan, but again let’s put this into context. Scotland has decarbonised faster than any G20 country and we’re already halfway to net zero.”

Scottish Labour’s net zero, energy, and transport spokeswoman Monica Lennon called on Ms Sturgeon to oppose the Cambo oil field plans in the “strongest possible terms” and provide the “political leadership that has been lacking”.

“If we are serious about averting climate catastrophe and accelerating towards a just transition for a green economy, Cambo cannot go ahead,” she stressed.

“There is no regulatory climate change test that Cambo can possibly pass, so the First Minister must to more than ask the UK Government to simply reassess the proposed oil field.”

Ms Sturgeon responded: “I’ve made my position very clear, I don’t think we can go on extracting new oil and gas forever … I don’t think we can continue to give the go ahead to new oil fields, so I don’t think that Cambo should get the green light.

“I am not the one taking that decision, so I have set out a proposal for a climate assessment, and I think the presumption would be that Cambo couldn’t and shouldn’t pass any rigorous climate assessment.”

In response to a question from Mark Ruskell from the Scottish Greens, the First Minister also said the Government was assessing its potential membership of the Beyond Oil and Gas alliance, whose members include Wales, Ireland, Denmark, France, and New Zealand.

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“There are three categories of membership and we are assessing which one, in the initial stages, would be most likely if we do decide to join,” she said. “It’s likely initially to be as a ‘friend’ of [the alliance], which would allow us to share our experience.”

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