However, it is worthwhile noting that Ireland has already introduced legislation to ban new oil and gas extraction and other countries, such as Denmark, Spain and France, have set dates by which they will do so.
Matheson explained that “we’re still some way off from decarbonising our society and we will still require an access to a level of hydrocarbons”, but added that the Scottish government’s policies would be consistent with the goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2045, five years before the UK.
And that raises a question about how these new supplies of oil and gas – possibly from the highly controversial proposed Cambo field off Shetland – can be used without busting our carbon budget.
Carbon off-setting could potentially play a role but it is a system that is ripe for abuse and downright fraud that can turn the supposed reductions in emissions into little more than a paper exercise.
Another possible solution, much touted by the oil industry, is carbon capture and storage (CCS).
This could, in theory, turn natural gas into a low-carbon source of energy, although questions remain about whether such systems will actually work in a practical, commercial sense.
There is also concern that this prospect is being used as cover to allow continued burning of fossil fuels – we’ll make all these nasty emissions disappear one day, promise.
However, given Matheson’s comments and the Scottish government’s hopes to hold an independence referendum in just two years’ time, ministers surely need to be doing everything they can to ensure practically useful CCS capability exists at the required scale in Scotland as quickly as possible.
There was much nationalist outrage after the Westminster government decided to develop the UK’s first CCS ‘clusters’ on the Humber and around Liverpool – relegating the Acorn Project in Aberdeenshire to the second phase – but Boris Johnson has his own priorities and reasoning.
So if he won’t stump up the necessary funds, perhaps Nicola Sturgeon should.