Nicola Sturgeon ‘hiding behind PM’ on Cambo oilfield, say climate groups

Campaigners criticise first minister for not demanding end to North Sea drilling in letter to Boris Johnson

Nicola Sturgeon has been criticised by climate campaigners for failing to call for the new Cambo oilfield to be blocked because of the climate crisis.

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Scotland accused the Scottish first minister of “hiding behind Boris Johnson” and not showing leadership after she resisted intense pressure to call for an end to new North Sea drilling.

In a letter to the prime minister on Thursday, Sturgeon instead said the Cambo proposal and other North Sea projects where drilling had not yet begun should be subjected to a much tougher appraisal given the severity of the climate emergency.

With Scotland hosting the Cop26 global climate summit in November, Sturgeon signalled the Scottish government could soon change its policy of supporting maximum oil and gas extraction, but she stopped short of stating new projects should be blocked.

Nervous of the backlash from industry and Scottish National party voters if she demanded Cambo was blocked, she instead urged Johnson to convene a meeting of the UK’s four governments to agree a new oil strategy that prioritised combating the climate crisis.

She said Monday’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showed it was imperative there was urgent collective action. “In the words of the IPCC it was ‘code red for humanity’. We all have a moral obligation to act,” she told Johnson.

Caroline Rance, a climate and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland, 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 licences or developments, and existing production must be wound down over the next decade.”

Oxfam said Sturgeon was right to argue for a reassessment of North Sea licensing but had not gone far enough. Jamie Livingston, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said she should spell out her opposition to the Cambo project.

With 80 days until Glasgow hosted Cop26, Livingston said: “Drilling for new oil as the climate emergency pushes millions of people deeper into hunger and poverty is clearly incompatible and wrong.”

Sam Chetan-Welsh, a political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “The first minister must stop hiding behind Boris Johnson. If she wants to show leadership on climate she must clearly say: stop Cambo.”

Sturgeon’s stance could also have an impact on talks with the Scottish Green party on a cooperation deal at Holyrood, which is in its final phase and could lead to the Greens getting two junior ministerial posts.

The Greens will face intense criticism from party members if the party’s negotiators accept Sturgeon’s stance on North Sea oil exploration without winning other major concessions on Scottish climate policy and spending in return.

Mark Ruskell, a Scottish Green MSP and climate spokesperson, said Sturgeon’s call for Cambo to be reassessed was welcome but insufficient.

Ruskell did not echo the climate campaigners’ direct attacks on Sturgeon but said: “We must listen to the UN secretary general [António Guterres] and stop fossil fuel expansion entirely. That means revoking Cambo and no new oil and gas licences whatsoever, with a just transition ensuring no worker is left behind.”

The Cambo oilfield, one of the largest unexploited oil basins in UK waters, has become symbolic of a renewed campaign by climate campaigners to phase out North Sea oil production. Keir Starmer, the UK Labour leader, added to the pressure on Sturgeon by calling last week for Cambo to be blocked.

The field, west of Cambo, holds about 800m barrels of oil but the first-phase licence being considered by UK ministers is to drill about 164m barrels.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said that drilling all the UK’s existing North Sea fields, which hold 5.7bn barrels of oil, would result in the UK smashing through its share of the Paris climate accord’s goals to limit global heating by 1.5C. Allowing Cambo to be exploited would greatly increase CO2 emissions, the organisation said.

• This article was amended on 13 August 2021. The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, rather than the International Panel on Climate Change as an earlier version said.

Contributor

Severin Carrell Scotland editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Nicola Sturgeon says world is facing a climate emergency
SNP leader tells party members she will speed up efforts to achieve zero carbon emissions

Severin Carrell Scotland editor

28, Apr, 2019 @4:15 PM

Article image
Danish warship blocks Greenpeace Arctic oil protest

The Danish navy has warned that the Esperanza will be boarded by armed personnel if it breaches the exclusion zone

Severin Carrell and Kirsty Scott

23, Aug, 2010 @5:31 PM

Article image
Nicola Sturgeon makes presence felt despite no seat at Cop26 table
Analysis: first minister can steer clear of any policy failures while pointing to benefits independence could bring

Severin Carrell and Libby Brooks

02, Nov, 2021 @3:32 PM

Scottish climate activists to target coal industry

Climate activists who are occupying a new opencast coal mine in south-west Scotland are planning to target power stations, energy companies and mines in protest over energy policies

Severin Carrell Scotland correspondent

03, Aug, 2009 @4:34 PM

Article image
Coal resurgence threatens climate change targets

Biggest increase in coal usage for 50 years could throw the UK's green ambitions off course

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent

29, Oct, 2012 @12:01 AM

Article image
Government's shift to relax shale gas fracking safeguards condemned
Environment groups fear possibly ‘weakened’ earthquake risk rules after report on Cuadrilla drilling

Jillian Ambrose Energy correspondent

15, Aug, 2019 @7:43 PM

Article image
Greenpeace claims activists could occupy Shetland oil-drilling ship for up to a month

Environmental activists aiming to prevent Chevron's deepwater drilling have attached a 'survival pod' to the vessel's anchor

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent

22, Sep, 2010 @1:51 PM

Article image
Greenpeace banned from intercepting oil-drilling ship
US oil giant Chevron wins injunction ordering protest group to stop direct action preventing ship from reaching destination north of Shetland

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent

28, Sep, 2010 @6:26 PM

Article image
BP gets go-ahead to expand North Sea drilling
Cameron backs £4bn plan for 'new Atlantic frontier' but Greenpeace warns of oil spills and rising emissions

Richard Wachman

13, Oct, 2011 @6:41 PM

Article image
Scotland's North Sea energy policies 'irreconcilable with green government'

Alex Salmond under fire after data reveals huge environmental cost of using oil and gas reserves to bankroll independence

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent

09, Oct, 2012 @4:03 PM