THE UK Government has come under fire for including Perth-based energy company SSE amongst the first sponsors of the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow.

SSE, Scottish Power and National Grid have all been been named as primary energy sector sponsors for the Scottish climate talks.

UK organisers of the summit announced the selection focusing on the trio’s plans for an “underwater super-highway” in the North Sea to deliver offshore wind power to the grid.

SSE was recently identified in figures compiled by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency as Scotland’s single biggest polluter in 2019, due to the 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted by the energy company's gas-fired power station at Peterhead.

Critics were quick to also note that SSE is investing in the 840MW gas-fired Keadby 2 power plant, one of the few gas projects under development in the UK.

The UK has a legally binding target to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.

Friends of the Earth Scotland were surprised by the development, saying that in August the UK Government announced it was looking for sponsors with "credible climate action plans".

Mary Church, the environmental group's head of campaigns said: "While the very worst big oil companies are notably missing from this initial list of sponsors for the Glasgow climate summit, the companies chosen by the UK Government are hardly showing the kind of climate leadership we urgently need at this stage in the crisis.

"The choice of SSE is very surprising given that they operate Scotland’s single most polluting site at Peterhead gas power station, which belches out over one and half million tonnes of climate changing emissions each year.


"SSE has made no public commitments or plans to close the plant, and ensure a just transition for workers, so it’s hard to see how they meet the UK Government's COP26 sponsorship criteria of credible short term climate action plans. While SSE can boast of being a leading renewable energy generator, on that front it is failing to deliver the decent, green jobs badly needed here in Scotland, with manufacturing contracts for the £3bn Seagreen offshore wind project all going overseas."

Earlier this month, SSE were criticised by Scottish Government economy secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP in September for failing to give a contract to BiFab for the £3 billion Seagreen offshore windfarm being guild off the east of Fife.

All of the platforms for its 114 turbines are being manufactured in China and the United Arab Emirates.

She stated that the decision had been pivotal in the firm, seen as a key element in Scotland's green jobs revolution, being unable to reopen its mothballed yards in Fife and Lewis.

SSE, based in Perth, owns wind farms, electricity networks and transmission infrastructure and is one of the few companies with its headquarters in Scotland to be in the blue-chip FTSE 100 index on London’s stock exchange.

Ms Church added: “This first announcement of COP26 sponsorship indicates that the UK Government is going down the route of greenwashing rather than showing the real leadership needed to tackle climate breakdown in this critical decade for climate action. Big polluters and those who would promote their greenwash must not be allowed to influence these vital talks. Just like the World Health Organisation banned big tobacco from its spaces, climate polluters must be kicked out of the climate talks.”

In announcing the sponsorship, SSE said it is investing £7.5bn in “low-carbon infrastructure” for the UK and Ireland including building the world’s largest offshore wind farm in the North Sea.

“Flexible thermal, such as that being built at Keadby 2, has a role to play in the transition to net zero under any pathway and will displace other less efficient generation and support security of supply,” a spokesperson for SSE said.

Glasgow-based Scottish decided in 2018 to remove all coal and gas operations from its portfolio and concentrate solely on renewables. It says it will invest £10 billion ($13bn) in clean energy generation in the next five years.

National Grid owns and operates the electricity transmission system in England and Wales and in parts of northeastern USA.

Cop26 president-designate Alok Sharma said: “I am delighted to announce our first sponsors for Cop26, who have all shown ambitious climate leadership through setting net zero commitments and science based targets.” The Cop26 organisers have said that all sponsors should have a credible plan to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050.

The organisers did not disclose the value of the sponsorship packages.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference will take place in November 2021, at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow.

The  sponsorships were unveiled as Labour produced figures from the business department revealing that the UK is seriously behind in its performance to meet its own carbon budgets.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to release a ’10 point low-carbon plan’ to tackle climate change. Labour is calling on Mr Johnson to ensure this plan meets the scale of the challenge.

Ed Miliband, shadow business secretary, said: “What we need this week is a plan, not a piecemeal set of points. It needs to be ambitious enough to meet the scale of the challenge, and it needs to reflect the urgency of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs now.”