‘What planet are these people on?’: Green MSP slams forecasts for north sea oil extraction until 2050

Ben Wray

Wightman comments in contradiction to SNP, which welcomed the new report

SCOTTISH GREENS MSP Andy Wightman has criticised a new report forecasting increased oil & gas extraction from the north sea up until 2050, after the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change report just two weeks ago argued that the world economy needed to be carbon neutral by at least the mid-century to prevent catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

Wightman responded to a report by University of Aberdeen academics professor Alex Kemp and Dr Linda Stephen, which found that production could reach 14.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent from 2018-50, an estimate which was four billion barrels of oil higher than 2017 estimates.

The Lothians MSP said: “What planet do these people live on? A planet that has 12 years to move to a 1.5 degrees of warming and folk come out with these forecasts.”

Wightman’s view was in stark contrast to that of the SNP, which welcomed the findings of Kemp and Stephens´ report, and called on the Chancellor to avoid any urge to increase taxes on the oil & gas sector in the UK Government’s Budget, which will be announced on Monday [29 October].

Commenting, SNP Energy Spokesperson Alan Brown MP said: “These latest revisions to forecasts confirm the major economic potential that North Sea oil reserves has to offer, with an expected 4 billion barrels more than 2017 estimates.

“Successive governments at Westminster have presided over disastrous mismanagement of the windfall of North Sea oil and gas revenues, selling Scotland short by using funds to plug Treasury black holes. The last thing the industry needs is yet another Tory tax raid.

“It’s more important than ever that the Tories at Westminster rule out any hikes in tax for the oil and gas sector and instead support the future of the industry with new incentives for exploration to provide a long term boost to both production and revenues.”

READ MORE: Raise the ambition of Climate Change Bill following IPCC report, Scottish environmentalists say

The report comes after the Oil & Gas Authority approved a new BP oil rig development in the north Sea which is expected to see another 20 million barrels extracted.

Responding to the BP announcement on Monday [22 October], Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: “This approval of this new North Sea oilfield for development by BP is a reckless decision that is incompatible with efforts to tackle climate change. This oil needs to stay under the seabed.

“The world cannot afford to burn even a fraction of the fossil fuels we already have, never mind approving the extraction of another 20 million barrels of oil.

“The strategy adopted by UK and Scottish Government’s of ‘maximising economic recovery’ from the North Sea means maximising destruction of the climate.”

Scottish Greens co-convenor Patrick Harvie told First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last month that Scotland’s reputation as a world leader on climate change would be a “sham” if it continues to give the fossil fuel industry the message that it should “keep on drilling”.

“The Scottish Government needs to recognise that we can’t be serious about a low-carbon economy if we keep on telling Total, BP and the rest of the lethal fossil fuel industry, to just keep on drilling,” he said.

The IPCC report, which brought together the global climate science community, found that cuts to carbon emissions of 45 per cent were needed by 2030 to keep temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. An extra half a degree rise will significantly worsen the effects of climate change, including droughts, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Temperatures have already risen by one degree, with an increase in erratic weather, including a summer heatwave this year, raising the issue up the political agenda.

If current global climate policies of governments remain in place, the world is on a pathway to a temperature rise of between 3.1-3.7 degrees.

Picture courtesy of Dave Conner

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