As Humza Yousaf prepares to talk up his green credentials on the world stage at COP28, climate campaigners warn the first minister risks locking Scotland into decades of fossil fuel dependency.
As we revealed previously, the SNP leader will fly to the United Arab Emirates for talks with global leaders at the conference, which begins on Thursday.
But closer to home, activists warn Scotland faces a climate disaster for years to come if Yousaf’s government approves a major new fossil gas power station in Peterhead.
Ministers are considering an application from energy giants SEE and Equinor to build a new gas-fired power station next to the existing plant in Aberdeenshire.
SSE confirmed in planning documents that the two plants will run at the same time and could increase total emissions from the site.
Would carbon capture work?
Official figures from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency show it is already the single worst polluter in Scotland over the past five years, belching out more than 1.35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide last year alone.
The developers say they will add carbon capture technology to the new station at a later date but a major report this week called on oil and gas companies to abandon the “illusion” of “implausibly large” carbon capture solutions.
Carbon capture and storage involves transporting emissions so they are unable to immediately affect the atmosphere, with the aim of mitigating global warming.
But campaigners say there are no plants anywhere in the world working at the scale promised in Peterhead.
They argue the technology gives oil and gas companies an excuse to continue extracting fossil fuels while claiming a solution is just around the corner.
Deadly impacts have arrived
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s climate campaigner Alex Lee said: “From Brechin to Bangladesh, the deadly impacts of the climate crisis have arrived, and the Scottish Government cannot add even more fuel to the fire by undermining the transition to renewables and allowing the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure.
“Fossil fuels are driving the cost-of-living crisis yet this Peterhead expansion plan would continue to trap people in paying energy prices set by the volatile global gas market.
“Renewable energy is more affordable, reliable and can deliver greater benefits across Scottish communities.
“The cynical push for carbon capture that will be seen at COP28 is little more than attempted greenwash from a fossil fuel industry whose business model only produces ever more extreme weather impacts and obscene profits for wealthy shareholders.”
The Scottish Government will have the final say on whether plans for the new gas-fired power station in Peterhead go ahead.
Plans are ‘entirely inconceivable’
We revealed previously the huge lobbying operation by fossil fuel interests in Scotland, including more than 100 meetings with Scottish politicians pushing what campaigners describe as expensive and inefficient technologies.
The International Energy Agency warned this week that if fossil fuel use continues under current projections, energy firms would need to capture and store an “entirely inconceivable” 32 billion tonnes of carbon and remove 23 billion tonnes via direct air capture by 2050 to stop the global temperature rising 1.5C above preindustrial levels.
It would require more electricity than is used by the entire world today.
IEA executive director Fatih Birol said the energy industry is facing a moment of truth at the global climate conference in Dubai.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is “moral and economic madness”.
What does the government say?
Energy Minister Gillian Martin said it would be inappropriate to comment on a live application.
She added: “The Scottish Government is committed to Scotland becoming a net zero nation by 2045.
“Our draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan sets out firmly our opposition to the continued use of unabated fossil fuels to generate electricity, while our updated Climate Change Plan contains more than 200 policies to reduce emissions across all sectors, including energy, in line with this bold ambition.”
SSE Thermal said carbon capture technology will be essential to decarbonising the power system on the way to net zero and that this is recognised by both the Scottish and UK governments.
It said decarbonising Peterhead – the UK’s only flexible power station north of Leeds – if of utmost importance, which is why it continues to progress plans.
A spokesman added: “The new plant, which would connect into the wider CCS infrastructure being developed by UK Government, will ultimately replace the existing station, which we have already said we don’t foresee running unabated beyond the end of this decade.
“This will deliver huge emissions reductions and the reality is the project will not proceed unless it can capture at least 90% of emissions.
“Indeed, we are working to secure even higher capture rates.
“Ultimately, Peterhead Carbon Capture Power Station will help to keep the lights on, facilitate the transition to net zero and create jobs in the region.”