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ADDRESSING the climate emergency should be at the forefront of every political party’s offering at this General Election.
But no matter how much the others might insist it is at the top of their agenda, only the Scottish Greens are treating the issue with the seriousness it deserves.
Emergency situations demand an emergency response and we are well past the point where tinkering and timidity are acceptable. The evidence shows that the next decade is vital in producing an adequate response and failure to do so will be catastrophic for all of us. The cohort of MPs elected next month will be in office for half of that time which is why it is incumbent on the public and politicians to make the case for the climate at every possible opportunity.
The Climate Bill recently passed by the Scottish Government was not only woefully unambitious but also failed to provide any meaningful roadmap towards achieving its targets. There is a tendency among the larger parties to adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to damage we do to the climate on a daily basis. It’s considered a problem for tomorrow when the reality is quite the opposite.
In the region I represent, the Mossmorran gas plant is a clear example of the damage the fossil fuel industry is doing to people in Scotland right now. It is a scourge on communities and has had a clear negative impact on the lives of people living around it.
Mossmorran is one of Scotland’s largest industrial polluters. Over the years there have been increasing bouts of flaring at the plant, operated by ExxonMobil and Shell. These incidents cause tremendous amounts of noise, light and vibrations which can last for days at a time. There were prolonged incidents earlier this year and a recent report from NHS Fife accepted that residents had suffered a “considerable degree of physical and psychological disturbance” as a result. ExxonMobil’s plant was taken offline in August for repairs and a company statement at the time said it would be closed until “at least November”. It hasn’t reopened yet. Unsurprisingly, the process of rebooting the plant involves a significant amount of flaring.
We’re more than halfway through November and local residents still haven’t heard a peep from the plant. This means that families, having already had their Easter and summer holidays disrupted, could now face the prospect of more of the same at Christmas. The unwanted prospect of the plant flaring over the holiday period would be a bitter blow to those communities.
The operators have claimed they’re unable to release detailed flaring schedules on the basis that the information is commercially sensitive.
It is yet another example of private capital’s interests being put well before the interests of people. This plant is demonstrably damaging to both the environment and the people who live near it. Given the “world-leading” climate targets the Scottish Government is very keen to remind us about, you would think that ministers would have had detailed conversations with the operators about the long-term future of the plant. Paths to decarbonisation will surely have been mapped out, plans made for the people who rely on jobs at the plant.
Sadly, this isn’t the case. There has been no discussion between Scottish Government and the plant about decarbonisation. Climate targets are all well and good but a complete unwillingness to make progress towards actually achieving them renders them almost entirely obsolete. Conversations between government and industry are surely one of the first steps needed. It is clear that industry isn’t going to make the leap on its own.
If we’re serious about fighting back against the climate emergency then the Mossmorran plant must, sooner or later, either close or use technology to completely
decarbonise. But we need to make sure the workers are not left behind. We need to ensure there are well paid, good quality, sustainable jobs for them to move into. A failure to recognise that and to plan for it is nothing short of neglect.
The situation at Mossmorran is the front line of Scotland’s approach to the climate emergency. It strikes at the heart of why my colleague Scott Rutherford is standing in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath at the General Election and why Greens are standing across Scotland. We can’t stay quiet while the other parties take baby steps towards a sustainable future. We recognise that bringing about the radical transformation needed will be easier when Scotland is independent, but we also recognise that this emergency can’t wait for independence, or Brexit, or a new government.
We’re standing in constituencies held by all the other parties because at one point or another they’ve let us all down when it comes to the environment. They can’t be allowed a free pass anymore. There simply isn’t the time.