Climate change: Keir Starmer's message to oil and gas industry about net-zero transition is the right one – Scotsman comment

Labour leader Keir Starmer is right to work with the North Sea industry on turning the UK into a ‘clean energy superpower’ as part of the transition to a net-zero carbon economy

Given Labour’s lead in the UK polls, Keir Starmer’s vow to make Britain a “clean energy superpower” – in contrast to Rishi Sunak's plans to “max out” oil and gas – sends an important message about the country’s likely direction of travel.

On a visit to Aberdeen, the Labour leader held talks with energy companies and later expressed confidence that the industry was on board with the transition to net-zero carbon emissions. “Nobody in the sector is saying to me, ‘We don't want the transition’. What they are saying is, 'We want the transition but here are the challenges, the pinch points, opportunities of the next generation of jobs, are you coming alongside us?' The answer for me, if we form the next government, is yes,” he said.

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While The Scotsman wouldn’t entirely share Starmer’s optimism – oil and gas companies remain eager to pursue their main source of profits – it is vital that the sector is brought on board if the UK is to achieve its climate targets. Environmental activists may demonise Big Oil, but the resources available to such corporations mean they should be viewed as potential allies in the fight against global warming.

The same companies, and the jobs they provide, are also hugely important to the economy, particularly in the North-East. Building up a renewable energy industry to compensate for the decline of fossil fuels is a task that requires action now. The expertise in offshore engineering developed over decades in the North Sea can be repurposed to provide the UK with a competitive advantage in offshore wind and tidal energy.

However, attempts to create a world-leading renewable industry have, so far, produced unimpressive results, with wind turbines largely built overseas proliferating around our coasts. And with Sunak backing a ‘business as usual’ approach, this seems unlikely to change. It also risks creating a situation in which the North Sea industry is run to the point of collapse, with mass job losses.

Starmer’s plan for a managed transition offers hope this can be avoided. His message to the North-East is the right one.



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