The Firth of Forth: net zero at the heart of Scotland by Wood Mackenzie
Global energy transition activity has accelerated as countries strive to meet their Paris Agreement commitments and achieve a net zero economy. The UK was the first major economy to commit to a net zero target, with progress towards this largely driven by the rapid growth in the wind sector.
The UK’s offshore installed capacity passed 10 GW in 2020 and is on track to meet the target of 40 GW by 2030. Whilst the UK has committed to net zero by 2050, Scotland has a 2045 target. The transformation of the power sector has been an early success, with Scottish emissions from power down 85% from 1990 levels. To sustain this momentum, some of the more intractable emissions challenges – including industrial emissions – need to be met head on.
The Firth of Forth area is Scotland’s major industrial cluster. The area is responsible for more than 10% of Scotland’s emissions but is critical to the Scottish economy. A diverse industrial base with refining and petrochemicals at its core, the area sustains thousands of jobs and produces multiple products and feedstocks essential to other industries, modern living and to the sustainable future society strives for. The challenge is to navigate a path to net zero while supporting economic growth and job creation. Closing industries and offshoring emissions would achieve the headline objective of national emissions reduction. But it would also have severe economic consequences, and would not reduce global emissions. With 24 years to achieve net zero in Scotland, it is time to address this challenge at the heart of the Scottish economy.
A valuable industrial ecosystem has developed in the Firth of Forth area, built on more than 250 years of international energy and trading activity. The industry, innovation and deep skill sets within this part of Scotland are vital to tackle the many technical and commercial challenges that must be faced to achieve net zero, whether in Scotland, the UK or globally. Managing and supporting the transition of the Firth of Forth area should be a priority.
Across the UK we have seen a number of net zero hubs develop around major industrial clusters, including Net Zero Teeside, Zero Carbon Humber and HyNet North West. These have attracted investment, which has spurred on net zero collaboration and initiatives that are helping to transform the industrial base of the UK. Glasgow is hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November. With the eyes of the world trained on Scotland, there is a great opportunity to launch a net zero hub for the Firth of Forth. Such an initiative for Scotland’s major industrial area would be wholly complementary to the development of the Scottish cluster and Scotland’s Net Zero Roadmap (SNZR). This is not about one area competing against another, but about a national effort to deliver net zero.
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