The politician who led the UK into the Paris Climate agreement has warned COP26 could be “hugely disappointing” because of a lack of preparation by the Scottish and Westminster governments.
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, spoke with journalists on Wednesday during a trip to Scotland.
The former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said he was proud of his term in government during the Lib-Dem Conservative coalition and that Holyrood and Westminster were too busy “playing to their crowds” to “stop the world burning”.
Sir Ed also commented on the need for new, green policy to prevent post-industrial decline in the North East, as the country moves from its reliance on oil and gas fossil fuels.
He said: “I think we should go further forward, I think oil and gas and the renewables should talk together and I think I was the first secretary of state to do that.
“There’s huge skills across Scotland in the oil and gas industry, which would be fantastic in creating green jobs of the future.
“The key to transition will be bold policies which could ensure that the skills which are here now should be transferred into skills we need for the future.”
Sir Ed pointed out turbine jackets in place in Nigg were built in China, before being transported at environmental cost to the UK.
He argued these materials should be constructed in the UK but a lack of investment in “automation” had left that unable to happen.
“We can’t compete (with China) on labour, and the way we see it done in Northern Europe is automated yards, which would create skilled jobs and we could supply jackets on a pipeline for over a decade.
“Both Governments just need to get on with it. They are playing politics. You have Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak playing to their crowd, and Ms Sturgeon et al playing to theirs.
“All they’re doing is conspiring to undermine the potential for green jobs here in the Scotland.
“We’re not attracted to either Freeports or Green ports, we don’t feel it is the best way to get jobs or investment. The point today is we have one offer from the UK Government, another from the Scottish and the fact they can’t agree is getting in the way.
“They’re behaving like children, they are playing to their base when they should get together to stop the planet from burning.”
On COP26, Sir Ed feared not enough preparation had gone into the event.
“You need heavyweight diplomats working for at least 18 months and I do not think the government have done that.”
“I hope Cop26 is a huge success…but I see a UK Government which doesn’t understand climate diplomacy.
“To see (government) failings there as we prepare to host in Glasgow both angers me and is hugely disappointing.
“The George Osborne’s of this world did not want to do what I and the Lib Dems wanted to do and we outplayed them and the record speaks for itself — the quadrupling of renewables, the total transformation the UK electricity system, our policies for contracts for difference made the UK a world leader for off-shore wind.
“I am incredibly proud of what we got done.”
The Lib Dems were reduced to eight seats from 49 in the 2015 election, after going into coalition with David Cameron’s Conservative party in 2010.
Sir Ed, along with then-party leader Nick Clegg, lost his seat at that election, before regaining it in 2017.
He was elected to party leader after former leader Jo Swinson lost her seat in the 2019 election.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Whilst we were prepared to work with the UK Government, and had a joint draft green port bidding prospectus ready to launch in March, we have been clear that we are not prepared to implement a port model that did not include a firm commitment to fair work and net-zero conditionality.
“After six months of delay on their part, the UK Government’s eventual port offer did not reflect this – nor did it provide fair set-up funding for Scotland to that offered for the UK Government’s favoured Freeport model for England, or indeed recognise the vital role the Real Living Wage plays in secure pay and employment contracts.
“The Scottish Government therefore had no option but to progress plans to further develop a green port model which meets the specific needs of Scotland’s economy.”
A No10 spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister believes it is vital for all parts of the UK to work together on our shared priorities such as tackling climate change – we’ve already cut emissions by 44% over the past three decades and brought forward the date to remove unabated coal from the UK’s energy mix by a whole year, as well as being the first major economy to legislate to reach net zero by 2050.
“COP26 is a massive undertaking by the whole of the UK, there is a role for all the First Ministers and we are working closely with the Scottish Government.”