Nicola Sturgeon accused of 'deferring' to Boris Johnson after call to 'reassess' existing oil and gas licences amid Cambo field backlash

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “deferring” to Boris Johnson after calling for him to “reassess” existing oil and gas licences following a growing Cambo oil field backlash.

The First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister on Thursday following the publication of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warns of irreversible effects of climate change for the planet as wildfires, heatwaves and severe flooding continue worldwide.

However, a host of environmental groups have now criticised Ms Sturgeon and accused her of not going far enough.

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Friends of the Earth Scotland climate and energy campaigner Caroline Rance claimed the First Minister had failed to “actually state her government’s position”.

She said: "Nicola Sturgeon is deferring to Boris Johnson on the future of North Sea oil and gas, when she must take a bold stance against Cambo and the climate devastation it will unleash.

"The science on this is already crystal clear. Burning fossil fuels is the key driver of this crisis, so to avoid climate breakdown there can be no new licenses or developments, and existing production must be wound down over the next decade.”

Up to 132 million tonnes of carbon could be released if the field, off the coast of Shetland, is given the green light. The development would require a land mass 1.5 times the size of Scotland to counter.

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Nicola Sturgeon has written to Boris Johnson over the Cambo development

Ms Sturgeon on Sunday avoided saying if she would oppose the field, insisting it was "not an issue for the Scottish Government".

Jennifer Kowalski, from Green New Deal Rising and the Stop Cambo campaign, which challenged Ms Sturgeon in a viral video from the weekend, said: “After challenging Nicola Sturgeon this weekend to stop the Cambo oil field, she has decided to write to the UK Government about it.

"But asking the government to ‘reassess’ is not enough. She needs to stop hiding behind the Conservatives and commit to no new oil fields in Scotland. Nothing less will do.”

Oxfam Scotland welcomed the letter, but demanded the First Minister “go further".

The charity’s head Jamie Livingstone said: "She should now go further and make clear her opposition to this project, and the Prime Minister should urgently review and reverse this drilling licence and accelerate plans for a just transition.

"Drilling for new oil as the climate emergency pushes millions of people deeper into hunger and poverty is clearly incompatible and wrong. Given the dire predictions in the UN report this week and the Secretary-General's comment that this must mark the 'death knell' for fossil fuels, this is the time to wind down oil extraction in Scotland and beyond.”

Writing to the Prime Minister, Ms Sturgeon also called for a UK four-nations summit to discuss how to meet the net-zero target ahead of COP26 in November.

She said: "Climate change is an inherently global issue and can only be address through coordinated international effort and working with offers.

“COP26 in Glasgow therefore represents the world's best chance – perhaps our last chance – to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

"The signals we send at this time are of the utmost importance and it is essential that we demonstrate global leadership on the challenging decisions that need to be made.

"I am therefore writing to suggest that a four-nations summit be convened in early course to discuss how we can work together, both in the run up to COP and beyond, to ensure that individually and collectively we are providing this clear leadership.

"In advance of that I wish to raise the example of oil and gas, where key decisions on offshore licensing, regulation and policy are reserved to the UK Government.

"I am asking that the UK Government now commits to significantly enhancing the climate conditionality associated with offshore oil and gas production.

"I am also asking that the UK Government agrees to reassess licences already issued, but where field development has not yet commenced. That would include the proposed Cambo development.

“Such licences – some of them issued many years ago – should be reassessed in light of the severity of the climate emergency we now face, and against a robust compatibility checkpoint that is fully aligned with our climate change targets and obligations."

Scottish Labour had previously called on the First Minister to “set an example” ahead of COP26 and oppose the Cambo oil field.

Labour net-zero spokeswoman Monica Lennon criticised the First Minister for not going far enough.

She said: “Scottish Labour has been urging Nicola Sturgeon to get off the fence and oppose the Cambo oil field plans in the face of climate catastrophe.

“In the wake of growing pressure from grassroots campaigners, she has taken a baby step towards having a position. Now is not the time to ‘reassess’.

"It's time for Nicola Sturgeon to firmly and loudly oppose Cambo, once and for all.”

Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport Liam Kerr claimed Ms Strurgeon was putting a “nationalist alliance with the Greens ahead of Scotland’s economy”.

He said: “We’re already seeing the dangerous influence of the Greens and their hardline ideology on the SNP Government, even before the coalition of chaos has been rubber-stamped.

“The oil and gas sector supports over 100,000 Scottish jobs and the development of the Cambo field could create thousands more.

“However, Nicola Sturgeon is clearly willing to damage our oil and gas industry, throw away thousands of jobs and risk hikes to energy prices.

“Her anti-business approach is undermining Scotland's economic recovery from the pandemic.

“It’s a real shame the SNP Government are too busy virtue-signalling to work with the industry on the transition to renewables, as the UK Government are doing.”

Downing Street has been approached for comment.

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