- Lorna Slater

Rishi Sunak's plan to grant 100 new oil and gas licences will leave a long and damaging legacy.
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna SlaterMinister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater

With heat waves engulfing Europe, it is probably the most important and consequential decision he will make as Prime Minister, and he got it badly wrong.

We can’t drill or burn our way out of environmental breakdown. Yet Downing Street has committed to a climate wrecking policy that would make us more dependent on fossil fuels.

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The PM and his colleagues are all too aware of the devastating impact of sticking to an unsustainable status quo. They've seen the UN reports and spoken to the scientists. They will have no illusions about the chaos they are sleepwalking us into.

Meanwhile they’ve opposed almost everything that could make a difference.

Whether it is the bottle and can recycling scheme which they torpedoed in Scotland, or the low-traffic neighbourhoods and low-emission zones the Tories have railed against.

If even these small but important steps are considered too radical for Westminster then what are the chances of the same government delivering the big structural changes that are urgently needed?

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Unfortunately Labour is not much better, with Keir Starmer confirming that he wouldn’t cancel a single new oil and gas licence.

We don't have to settle for this complacency. We can do much better.

There is nothing inevitable about a fossil fuel economy. Scotland was at the heart of the industrial revolution, now we can play a key role in decarbonising Europe.

We are particularly well placed, with an abundance of skills and natural resources any country would envy.

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Before I was an MSP I was a project manager in the renewables sector. I worked on a project that launched the world’s biggest tidal device into Scottish waters. It will generate enough electricity to power 2000 homes.

I’ve worked in shipyards and factories across Scotland, and have had the privilege of working with some of the most skilled engineers in our country.

I have seen the difference that can be made by supportive governments who believe in a just transition and invest in green skills. That is what we are doing in Scotland despite the huge constraints of devolution.

By far the most important powers lie with a UK government that is barely even trying to hit its net zero targets and simply doesn’t care about the climate vandalism it is inflicting.

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The crisis will not go away and the kind of policies being announced by the PM will only make it worse.

We can’t reverse the damage that has been done by years of inaction, but we can work to climate-proof our future and mitigate the impacts going forward.

The solutions won’t always be easy, but some of the steps are very obvious. The first has to be an end to new oil and gas drilling.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity

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