Green New Deal

Speech in the Scottish Parliament

24 April 2019

The motion before us today refers to :

“a rapid and just transition.”

As Richard Leonard said, most of us will sign up to that.

The challenge is how to strike the right balance between speed and fairness in that transition.

Getting that balance right is vital for many sectors of our economy and for the jobs and livelihoods of those who work in them.

It is particularly important that we get the balance right from the point of view of our energy industries and energy workers.

North East Scotland has one of the largest concentrations of energy expertise anywhere in Europe.

Aberdeen—the oil capital of Europe for the past 40 years—aspires to be the energy capital of Europe for the next 40 years and beyond.

How to make a just transition is therefore not an abstract issue; it is a matter of vital and personal interest to tens of thousands of people in the area that I represent and, indeed, across Scotland.

Mark Ruskell: Would Lewis Macdonald acknowledge that it is important that the Oil & Gas Technology Centre that has been set up becomes an all-energy technology centre that addresses the needs of emerging technologies, including renewables?

Lewis Macdonald:

Mark Ruskell is absolutely right to make that point—that is what the Oil & Gas Technology Centre is.

I am sure that, when he visits, he will find that it is doing many good and innovative things in offshore renewable energy.

I am glad that he mentioned that, because although it is not on my list, it is a critical part of energy transition.

Other big steps have already been taken. Aberdeen has the largest fleet of hydrogen buses in Europe; the world’s largest wind turbines generate power in Aberdeen bay; the largest domestic district heating scheme in Britain has cut both carbon emissions and fuel poverty for thousands of council tenants; and the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group provides an outstanding model of municipal leadership in working towards a low-carbon economy.

Indeed, Aberdeen bay is only one of a large and growing number of wind farms in North East Scotland, onshore and offshore, and the Acorn project at St Fergus has the potential to lead Britain and Europe in enabling carbon capture and storage in the North Sea.

Those many projects are crowded into the north-east not just because we have innovative universities, enterprising councils and a world-class workforce—although it is true that we have all those things. The projects are there because we have energy industries and energy workers who have been delivering for a generation, working in some of the toughest environments in the world and developing successive new technologies to overcome technical challenges that would once have been seen as insurmountable. Public policy and expectation now look to our energy industries and energy workers to make different things happen.

Those industries and workers are already adapting, seeking to deliver both low-carbon energy and successful carbon sequestration in those same challenging offshore environments.

The choice that we now have to make is whether to seek to deliver energy transition through partnership with the energy sector and energy workers, or to do it in opposition to existing energy businesses and those who work for them.

We should choose to develop a strategy to deliver real change, not simply to virtue signal at the expense of the people who work in our energy industry.

Labour is clear that we want real change, and that we want to deliver it in partnership with workers in energy.

We need to see real action by Scottish and UK Government ministers to secure real jobs in the renewable energy sector, as an essential precondition of a just transition for our existing energy workforce.

Many oil and gas workers are fully engaged with the debate.

They are clear that energy transition must start with the creation of high-quality, highly skilled new energy jobs, not with getting rid of those that we already have.

A generation ago, Scotland failed to capture the economic benefits of onshore wind, despite having led the way in developing the technology.

We must not let that happen again.

Government must find new ways to secure those future energy jobs, and it must do so in partnership with our people who work in the energy industry.

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