Yousaf accuses Sunak of ‘climate denial’ over oil and gas licences

The First Minister introduced US politician John Kerry at an event in Edinburgh (Robert Perry/PA)
The First Minister introduced US politician John Kerry at an event in Edinburgh (Robert Perry/PA)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been accused of “climate denial” by Scotland’s First Minister over plans to give out 100 new oil and gas licences.

Humza Yousaf made the accusation following an event where he introduced US climate envoy John Kerry in Edinburgh and announced a £24 million fund from the Scottish Government to support countries worst affected by the climate crisis.

The Prime Minister announced during a visit to Scotland last month that he would reveal the first of the new licenses in the autumn.

Humza Yousaf shaking hands with John Kerry
US climate envoy John Kerry spoke at the event in Edinburgh (Robert Perry/PA)

Speaking to journalists after the event, Mr Yousaf said: “What holds us back, of course, is a prime minister that’s in climate denial, coming up to Scotland to announce approval of 100 new oil and gas licences.

“Of course the North Sea is important, we’ve got to take workers with us if we want to accelerate pace of the just transition, which can’t happen with a UK Government that simply denies the state of the climate crisis.”

Meanwhile, the First Minister announced that three aid agencies, including the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, will each receive up to £8 million over the next three years from the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund to support work in Rwanda, Malawi and Zambia.

It will enable them to work closely with communities to manage the material and social effects of climate change, funding projects such as building more climate-resilient housing or repairing village flood defences.

John Kerry
John Kerry, US special presidential envoy for climate, is in Scotland this week (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Yousaf launched the programme on Thursday as he introduced a lecture by Mr Kerry focusing on the climate crisis.

During his introductory address, the First Minister said: “The countries which are the worst affected by the climate crisis are often those which have done little or nothing to cause it.

“The injustice at the heart of the global climate crisis is why Scotland became the first country in the world to establish a Climate Justice Fund more than a decade ago, and why we have led the way in being the first global north country to commit funding to address loss and damage.

“Today, we are able to announce the start of the Climate Just Communities programme in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda. The programme will work with local communities – including with marginalised groups – so that they can identify their own priorities, and build their resilience to the climate crisis.

“The £24 million programme that we are confirming today is a significant commitment from a devolved government. It will make a real difference to the communities we are working with and it’s a further sign of Scotland’s determination to be a good global citizen – and to do our bit in tackling the climate crisis here in Scotland and across the world.”

The event in Edinburgh is the first in a series of annual Scottish Global Dialogues taking place during the Edinburgh International Festival to discuss global challenges, organised by Beyond Borders Scotland and the WS Society with support from the Scottish Government.

Mr Kerry said: “I’m honoured to be given the opportunity to speak at a historic site like the Signet Library to address the climate crisis at this critical moment.

“With just a few months to go before Cop28 in Dubai, we all need to ensure our unwavering commitment to addressing one of the world’s greatest threats.”

Founder of Beyond Borders Mark Muller Stuart said: “We are delighted that Secretary Kerry has accepted our invitation to come to Scotland to launch Scottish Global Dialogues by giving the inaugural address on such a critical issue as the climate crisis as we move towards Cop28.

“We believe the convening power of the Edinburgh festivals and the Signet Library’s Scottish Enlightenment connections provides the perfect backdrop for such an address, to say nothing of the Scottish people’s enduring commitment to protecting our environment.”