Let’s Have a Real Climate Emergency

Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of a “climate emergency” followed by the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations that Scotland reach net zero by 2045 has been followed by a lot of back-slapping. Read the CCC report here.

Committee chairman Lord Deben (John Gummer) said: “Scotland has been a leader within the UK with many of its policies to tackle climate change. By setting a strong net-zero target for 2045 it can continue that leadership on the world stage.”

Scotland’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition to tackle it and safeguard our planet for future generations. Having received independent, expert advice that even higher targets are now possible, and given the urgency required on this issue, I have acted immediately to set a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for 2045 which will see Scotland become carbon neutral by 2040.”

It all sounds good and is to be very much welcomed. But there’s a problem.

Responding to the FM’s announcement the Chief executive of Oil & Gas UK Deirdre Michie said the reductions must be achieved “without disadvantaging UK industries against their international competitors”.

Yet 12 of the top 20 carbon polluters are linked to North Sea oil and gas. In 2016 they emitted a total of over six million tons of carbon dioxide. You can’t have a “climate emergency” without doing something about this.

Yet this week we saw former Climate Minister Stewart Stevenson actually claiming on national television that “Extracting oil and gas from the North Sea is not an issue” and that the “economic value of fossil fuels would pay for climate change agenda.”

This is a terrifying level of scientific and political illiteracy.

Planting a lot of trees and carrying on as if everything’s fine isn’t going to cut it.

Let’s take just one example.

The ExxonMobil ethylene plant at Mossmorran spews out 885, 580 tonnes of carbon monoxide a year. * It’s one of the top 20 Polluters that Will Have to Radically Change if Scotland is Going to Meet Its Climate Goals.

It’s not hard to miss.

You can see it across the whole of Scotland. You can probably see it from Bute House.

According to the Ferret: “The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) received a record number of 650 complaints from local residents about noise and pollution from the flaring, which began five days ago on Easter Sunday. According to ExxonMobil, it was caused by a “process upset”.

In 2012 ExxonMobil was forced to pay the biggest fine for an environmental offence in British history for failing to report greenhouse gas emissions from its chemicals plant in Scotland. The world’s largest oil company was hit with the £2.8 million fine by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) for neglecting to account for 33,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from its ethylene plant in Fife. The fine was not publicised by Sepa when it was levied in September 2010 and was buried in a report issued last week by the government’s anti-pollution agency.

What’s been done since?

Nothing much.

A few reports. A slap on the wrist here. A fine here.

The focus has rightly been on the appalling impact of flaring on the local community, the relentless psychological and physical distress caused by living next to the plant. The community is now demanding an “independent expert study of the environmental, social and health impacts on the surrounding communities of the operations of Shell’s Fife NGL Plant and ExxonMobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran.”

But the media coverage, such as it is, ignores the plants emissions impact.

If the First Minister wants to have an emblematic action to show that she is truly serious about climate action, then there is one easy thing to do. If the Scottish Government wants to show real leadership it should just step in and close down Mossmorran.

Do it now.



* That’s a figure from 2016.









Comments (15)

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  1. Alistair Taylor says:

    Well said, Mike.
    We need some bold, brave, and drastic action.

  2. Del G says:

    So Westminster just voted through a ‘climate emergency’ which is non-binding and will be ignored. Holyrood says it’s cancelling the discounted air tax. DOes that mean Westminster is 0% drastic and Holyrood is 1% drastic?

  3. Chris Connolly says:

    Hello Bella

    After reading your tweet a couple of days ago I expect you’ll be suggesting, as a first step towards combating climate change, encouraging those of us over 50 to voluntarily euthanise ourselves. A retraction would have been nice; instead we got a the most passive aggressive response (“sorry/not sorry”) imaginable. I can’t imagine what got into whoever posted this, but whoever it was has had enough time now to say sorry properly.

    To borrow someone else’s famous speech, you can stuff your apology/non-apology up your arse for nothing and fuck off/not fuck off while you’re doing it. Bigotry is unacceptable whether is based on race, gender, birthplace, sexuality or, indeed, age.

    Bloody cheek!

    1. Wul says:

      Let’s try to be less willing to claim our victimhood eh? None of that tweet was about you personally and it’s probably broadly true, in my experience anyway. Let it go.

      How can we make progress if we are all policing each other for purity of expression & thought?

      Let it go. There’s more important stuff to worry about.

      1. Jo says:

        “Let it go.”


        Some of us are sick of it Wul. We get blamed for everything these days. I’m sixty. Here’s something I learned as a wean. “Don’t say ‘I’m sorry but….’ If you’re sorry you say you’re sorry and that’s it.” Mike’s, “I’m sorry/not sorry.” was wrong.

        His original claim about the over 50s was as well. Sweeping generalisations do great damage. It’s like the one that claims the same age group are rolling in dosh when many of us are not. I’m female, I’m one of the many women born in the 50s who lost out on our NI pensions at 60 with no notice.

        When I started work basic income tax was paid at 35%! It is now 20%. It took many years to get down to that level so my age group paid a fair whack in taxes, even if we were lower earners.

        These days we’ve been blamed for Brexit. Tell me this, how many of the thuggish types shouting for Brexit in England look over 50 to you? How many of those following Tommy Robinson around are over 50? How many Mr Angry types in QT audiences are over 50?

        We got blamed for the NO vote in Scotland. Again, I have to say that the vile stuff I see that is anti-Independence comes from people far younger. And, sadly, it’s rooted too often in sectarianism or, God help us, which side of the Old Firm you follow. But, no, better to just blame the over 50s.

        It’s not on Wul. Mike should have said sorry properly instead of saying something that was no apology at all. You can still rectify that, Mike, so hae a wurd wi’ yersel!

        1. Hi Jo,

          I though the sorry/not sorry was a well known phrase.

          The reality is that there is a generational difference of view that cuts across independence, views on climate change and Brexit. This is just established fact. Sorry.
          So I don’t apologise about expressing frustration at having to explain the most basic climate and carbon information to people.

          This does not and could not possibly mean that I believe all people over 50 think like this. I never would say that, I didn’t say that and it would be stupid to say that.

          1. Jo says:

            “This is just established fact.”

            I’m not so sure Mike. There are many generational differences, yes, but a lot of the unhealthier ones can’t be blamed on older people.

            I live on a school road that’s nose to tail in the mornings and at home time with cars taking kids to school.

            We’re also seeing ads everywhere these days encouraging people to tear up their gardens, put down artificial turf or hardscape covering which closes off natural drainage when it rains. This increases the risk of flooding. I know of a lovely housing estate near me consisting of maybe 60-100 lovely houses. They’ve been there a long time. In the time I’ve been here there’s barely a piece of lawn left in any of them. It’s all what I call hardscaping with plants in fancy pots. No real soil anywhere.

            Let’s also look at the latest ads for wood burning stoves. When they burn they apparently produce a sort of “soot” similar to the particles produced by diesel. Yet they’re all the rage and considered very modern.

            Let’s look at modern day laundry too and the death of customs like hanging out a washing. Nope, it’s into the tumble dryer with it! Do you know the impact of that on the environment? It’s massive. Yet every fancy modern house will have a wee fancy utility room built in, with a tumble dryer included. And many older houses will have had one installed, maybe in the garage, along with the dish washer! In my day we had dishwashers. In oor hoose they were also known as the weans!

            Think of the average household now with all the technology living alongside inhabitants. Mobile phones, laptops, iPads, individual computer game contraptions, umpteen TVs throughout the home. Remember all the charging required.

            So please, don’t ignore the fact that modern life and later generations present major challenges to the planet on an hourly basis.

            On Independence I think there are more worrying divides, Mike. Only in Scotland could you have an issue as important as this, for many, resting on which side of the Old Firm they support. Tragically, that’s not an age thing. It would make you weep.

            So I’d say again, not to make sweeping generalisations. They rarely work.

  4. milgram says:

    Good to see that the silence over Mossmoran is starting to break. I didn’t know anything about it until a couple of years ago one evening when it was lighting up the Edinburgh sky with flames. “Looks like a pretty big disaster over there,” a friend said. They were right, just not on the timescale.

  5. Derek Henry says:

    At the heart of Europe ?

    The purpose of the pact was to ensure that fiscal discipline would be maintained and enforced in the EMU. All EU member states are automatically members of both the EMU and the SGP, as this is defined by paragraphs in the EU Treaty itself. The fiscal discipline is ensured by the SGP by requiring each Member State, to implement a fiscal policy aiming for the country to stay within the limits on government deficit (3% of GDP) and debt (60% of GDP); and in case of having a debt level above 60% it should each year decline with a satisfactory pace towards a level below.

    As outlined by the “preventive arm” regulation, all EU member states are each year obliged to submit a SGP compliance report for the scrutiny and evaluation of the European Commission and the Council of Ministers, that will present the country’s expected fiscal development for the current and subsequent three years. These reports are called “stability programmes” for eurozone Member States and “convergence programmes” for non-eurozone Member States, but despite having different titles they are identical in regards of the content. After the reform of the SGP in 2005, these programmes have also included the Medium-Term budgetary Objectives (MTO’s), being individually calculated for each Member State as the medium-term sustainable average-limit for the country’s structural deficit, and the Member State is also obliged to outline the measures it intends to implement to attain its MTO. If the EU Member State does not comply with both the deficit limit and the debt limit, a so-called “Excessive Deficit Procedure” (EDP) is initiated along with a deadline to comply, which basically includes and outlines an “adjustment path towards reaching the MTO”. This procedure is outlined by the “dissuasive arm” regulation.

    Good luck sorting out the climate with your hands tied with that nonsense.

  6. Derek Henry says:

    Fiscal rules going mad …


    Yet, the SNP won’t give up on the growth comission and want an Indy Scotland to be at the heart of Europe.

    An economic plan built on madness and whoever is advising the SNP need to be fired.

  7. Jo says:

    Great piece.

    There is so much to learn about this subject and I personally struggle a bit because a lot of it is scientific and I was always rubbish at science. I find a lot of the contributions here informative and helpful so I’m grateful for that.

  8. Wul says:

    It’s easy to look at this type of pollution and then think; “Well, we are are responsible in a way, we all drive cars, use plastic, rely on cheap fossil fuel..” etc.

    But I don’t get to make laws or have the power to shut down polluting plants like Mossmorran. If our leaders think there is an emergency then it’s time for some drastic action.

    And the “consumer choices” that we are told make us all culpable aren’t real, informed choices.
    The supermarket never asked me: “Would you like a bag for that? Just bear in mind that thousands of sea creatures will die as a result and our world will be filled with plastic waste for eons”

    I’m sick of leadership that always defaults to what’s best for business over what’s best for us and the creatures we share our planet with.

    1. Jo says:

      Couldn’t agree more Wul.

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