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New Scotland First Minister vows to 'seize net zero opportunities'

New Scotland First Minister vows to 'seize net zero opportunities'


Humza Yousaf commits to Scotland's net zero goal, as Labour calls on government to deliver genuinely ambitious 'Green Day' response to US subsidy blitz

Scotland's incoming First Minister Humza Yousaf has underscored the SNP's commitment to accelerating the country's decarbonisation efforts, promising to "seize the economic and social opportunities of the journey to Net Zero".

Speaking in his victory speech yesterday after narrowly beating rival candidate Kate Forbes, Yousaf signalled that climate action would remain a top priority for the Scottish government.

"As First Minister I will not shy away from the tough challenges, those that require the difficult decisions, but where there is that challenge, I will use it to find opportunity," he said. "My government will seize the economic and social opportunities of the journey to net zero - a country as energy rich as Scotland should not have people living in fuel poverty."

Yousaf has been widely positioned as the continuity candidate following the resignation of former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. As such he is expected to retain the SNP's plans to deliver net zero emissions by 2045, engineer a 'just transition' away from fossil fuels, and become one of the first countries in the world to fund climate 'loss and damage' projects in developing economies.

The change in leadership comes as Labour today seeks to further bolster its green policy platform, with Shadow Net Zero Secretary Ed Miliband set to accuse the government of "defeatism" in the face of the green subsidy blitz unleashed by the White House's Inflation Reduction Act.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Green Alliance think tank this morning, Miliband will call on the government to "stop moaning" about the US support for clean tech industries and use this week's update to the UK's Net Zero Strategy to deliver a genuinely ambitious suite of climate policies.

"[The trade secretary] Kemi Badenoch dismisses the Inflation Reduction Act as ‘protectionist'," he will say. "Our current energy secretary Grant Shapps calls it ‘dangerous'. The chancellor dismisses it too.

"I profoundly disagree with this approach. As the US and Europe speed off into the distance in the global race for green industry, we are sitting back in the changing rooms moaning about the rules. Sore loser syndrome won't win any jobs for Britain."

Miliband will stress that Labour would deliver a more proactive green industrial strategy. "Of course, we must remain an open economy, welcoming foreign investment and goods," he will say. "Not everything in the green economy could or should be produced here. But we are not neutral about where things are built. Joe Biden wants the future Made in America. We want the future Made in Britain."

The government is set to announce a raft of new decarbonisation policies this week as part of a package of measures that was originally billed as 'Green Day', but which Number 10 is now attempting to rebrand as 'Energy Security Day', much to the chagrin of environmental campaigners.

Ministers are expected to update the UK's Net Zero Strategy in response to last year's High Court ruling, which concluded the current strategy is "inadequate" and in breach of the Climate Change Act.

New measures are expected to mobilise investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen projects, require auto manufacturers to produce zero emission vehicles, and ease planning barriers for clean energy projects.

However, campaigners fear the package of new policies could also include approval for new oil and gas projects and inadequate policies and funding in a host of key areas, including energy efficiency, renewables, and farming.

Miliband will argue the Ministers must stand up to those in government who say "we cannot compete with Inflation Reduction Act".

"How, they say, can we compete with the United States with its population five times ours and its huge financial firepower?" he said. "But such defeatism is not just pessimistic but plain wrong. It misunderstands the reality of the scale of the opportunity presented by the biggest transformation of the global economy in 300 years. And it deeply misunderstands our unique potential as a country to compete and win in this green revolution that has begun."

Chris Venables, head of politics at Green Alliance, said the 'Green Day' announcements provided "a moment for the government to show it fully understands the urgency needed to tackle climate change".

"Mandates for electric vehicle sales aside, this week's announcements do not look set to drive the required emissions reductions," he added. "And as important as it is to invest in carbon capture and storage, it cannot be a cover for more fossil fuel extraction. The best way to lower bills, provide energy security and tackle climate change is through expanding existing green technology. On Thursday we need to see a long term, US-style plan of investment in technologies like onshore wind - not a programme of short-termism that wastes time in saving the only planet we have."

Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE

Published: 28-03-2023

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