SNP climate spin revealed

For immediate release 12 November 2010

The Scottish Green Party today published research showing that almost a quarter of the carbon cuts claimed by Scottish Ministers since simply have not been achieved. The emissions from Scotland's offshore oil and gas industry have been kept off Scotland's books by UK administrations keen to undermine the SNP argument that "it's Scotland's oil". Even these emissions do not count the climate consequences of burning the oil and gas extracted, merely those associated with extraction and production.

While SNP Ministers continue to claim 90% of the income from oil and gas in Scottish waters, they have failed to take the corresponding 90% of the emissions from these offshore industries into account. These so-called "unallocated emissions" have risen since 1990, and Scotland's real emissions have therefore fallen by far less than claimed by Scottish Ministers. Last year's Climate Change Act set a target of a 42% reduction by 2020, and SNP Minister Stewart Stevenson inaccurately claimed just last month that "Scotland has reached the halfway point". In addition, the decision to allow deepwater oil exploration, backed by SNP, Labour, LibDems and Tories at Holyrood, will result in even more pollution from Scottish waters. This pollution which will again remain uncounted against Scotland's targets.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"Alex Salmond wants the oil but he's deliberately ignored the pollution that comes with it. It's time for the SNP to take responsibility and choose between saving the planet and drilling for every last drop of oil. The SNP were weaned on oil and they're still hooked on it. An independent Scotland would have to deal with these emissions, so why won't SNP Ministers come clean now?

"These figures blow the SNP's oil spin out of the water. Whether Salmond likes it or not, sooner or later he will have to accept he can't reconcile his oil obsession with his rhetoric on the environment. I don't hold out much hope though: he's always at the front of the queue for the cash from oil and gas, but I can't see him coming clean about the pollution this industry causes.

"It's not small beer, either: more than a quarter of all Scotland's climate pollution comes from the offshore industries. Scotland will never be able to play a responsible role on the environment unless we make the real switch away from these dead-end industries and towards a true low carbon future. We've hit the jackpot twice, first with oil, then with wave, tidal and wind power. Our oil has been in decline since 1999, but the renewable potential will last forever, and with real commitment from the next Scottish Government we could really lead the world. A low-carbon economy is an economy built on high-skill jobs, too, which is just what Scotland needs in these hard economic times.

"The reality is that we have seen two decades of inactivity on the environment from every other party, and endless opportunities to save energy and cut bills have been missed. It should therefore be no surprise that Scotland hasn't achieved the reductions in emissions Ministers have claimed. We can no longer afford governments that simply talk about climate change, and this SNP administration has proved itself unfit for purpose. Without a radical change next May, the Scottish Government will only ever lead the world in targets, not in real achievements."

The 90% figure is Scottish Ministers' own. They state in the executive summary of "An Oil Fund for Scotland: Taking forward our National Conversation" that:
"A significant proportion of oil and gas reserves on the UK Continental Shelf are located in waters close to Scotland. It is estimated that thus far, approximately 90 per cent of the UK's oil and gas revenues have been extracted from an area that could be classified as comprising Scotland's geographical share of the UK Continental Shelf."

Unallocated emissions are set out in table ES1, on page xi of the 2008 publication "Greenhouse Gas Inventories for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: 1990 - 2008"

It shows that emissions allocated to Scotland have fallen from 68.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (mt CO2-e) in 1990 to 53.7mt CO2-e in 2008, while "unallocated emissions" rose from 15.2mt CO2-e to 16.1mt CO2-e over the same period. Allocating Scotland 90% of these emissions, in line with the share of the UK oil and gas industry claimed by the SNP, would see an increase of 14.5mt CO2-e in Scotland's emissions to a total of 68.2mt CO2-e, more than a quarter above the figure claimed by Scottish Ministers. The actual reduction in Scotland's emissions since 1990 would also be just 16.7%, not the 21.2% claimed by Ministers.

Calculations available here (Google spreadsheet, numbers taken from table ES1 linked to above)