The purpose of this proposal is to consult on the banning of the onshore extraction of unconventional oil and gas, including by means of hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as fracking. Unconventional oil and gas extraction – referred to in this document by the generic label UOG – encompasses shale oil, shale gas, coalbed methane, and underground coal gasification.
Onshore extraction is understood to cover all oil and gas resources that are located in the Scottish onshore area, which includes all land within the low-tide line, plus major estuaries (including the Firth of Forth).
There are a range of reasons why many stakeholders and communities do not think it is appropriate to proceed with on-shore UOG. There are also reasons why others think that on-shore UOG should be able to take place.
My reasons for proposing a ban on UOG are specific and evidence based. They are principally about the imperative need to tackle climate change.
At a global level, the climate change science is now irrefutable. Climate change is happening fast and it is created by us – humankind. As a result of the science and its starkly real impacts, the majority of the global community agreed in Paris last year to limit global temperature rises to well below 2°C above a pre-industrial baseline, and to pursue efforts to keep temperatures within a 1.5°C limit.
The impacts are, of course, already being experienced by us all here in Scotland – more extreme weather patterns, more frequent and serious flooding, coastal erosion, and changes in our wildlife, their habitats and migration patterns.
In this global and Scottish context, Scotland has set a range of challenging greenhouse gas emissions targets – both annual and long term. We also have the Reports on Proposals and Policies with the 3rd of these – The Climate Action Plan – to be laid before the Scottish Parliament and scrutinised early in 2017.
In October 2016, the Scottish Government agreed not to include underground coal gasification in its future energy mix. This is only part of the UOG picture, however – other forms of UOG including hydraulic fracturing, are still only suspended by temporary moratorium.
This approach simply prolongs the uncertainty for communities and businesses across Scotland, particularly in areas known to have potential for UOG. The scientific basis for banning UOG already exists, and I believe there is no need to wait any longer.
My proposed Member’s Bill puts forward an alternative path for consideration and scrutiny. Taking account of both the Scottish and global contexts, I am clear that it would not be appropriate to allow another form of oil and gas extraction here in Scotland. This paper will demonstrate how the exploitation and burning of further oil and gas reserves without any current commercially viable method of storing the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions created, together with fugitive emissions of other greenhouse gases from the extraction process, and the potential displacement of the development of renewables, will all create barriers to Scotland transitioning to a low carbon economy.
UOG is not a transition technology for Scotland. There is no need for it in Scotland in the challenge to reduce emissions and provide energy for our country. I am clear that on the grounds of the climate change science alone, there should be a ban on UOG because we should not start relying on a new frontier of fossil fuels. I also acknowledge the numerous other issues associated with UOG, which will be explored further in this consultation.
I would like to thank all the stakeholders who have already informed some of the thinking behind this proposed Bill.
I encourage all those with views on UOG in Scotland to take part in this consultation process – community groups, businesses, trade unions, non-governmental organisations, and individuals. Hearing views from a wide range of stakeholders will aid understanding of the issues and the best way forward. This will inform a Member’s Bill that I intend to introduce in the Scottish Parliament as early as possible in 2017.
I look forward to hearing your views.
Claudia Beamish MSP
3rd November 2016