BILLIONAIRE Jim Ratcliffe has snubbed politicians investigating transforming Grangemouth into a carbon neutral hub despite his petrochemical company, Ineos, being the biggest single polluting company in the country.

Scotland has committed to becoming a carbon net zero nation by 2045 – while MSPs have also pledged that emissions will be cut by 75 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030.

But the biggest challenge for the Scottish Government is removing carbon produced by the industrial hub at Grangemouth.

Figures from Sepa show that five Ineos sites at Grangemouth released 3.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2019 – more than double that emitted by any other company.

Companies at Grangemouth emit one third of the total emissions from companies in Scotland which have a mandatory reporting duty.

The Scottish Government has set up the Grangemouth Future Industry Board which will “ensure the significant opportunities for low carbon economic growth are maximised” and attempt to “unlock potential investment and identify policy levels that can support sustainable growth”.

HeraldScotland: Decarbonising Grangemouth will be key to Scotland's net zero commitmentDecarbonising Grangemouth will be key to Scotland's net zero commitment

The Scottish Government said the board is at an “early stage” of development and will have “decarbonisation woven through all aspects of its work”.

Ministers have also committed £60 million to support the industrial and manufacturing sectors’ transition to net zero.

The strategy for Grangemouth and wider heavy industry points to carbon capture and storage being scaled up – with ministers considering using “Scotland’s vast storage potential” to import “CO2 via ship from European carbon capture projects”, which officials hope could lead to “opening up the potential for a CO2 transportation economy”.

Carbon capture involves separating and capturing carbon dioxide from other gases before it enters the atmosphere – converting CO2 into liquid to be transported. The CO2 is pumped or injected deep underground for permanent storage.

READ MORE: Warning over reliance on carbon capture and storage for climate targets

Developing the carbon capture and storage industry will be “delivering confidence to emitters in Grangemouth of a long-term solution for their industrial emissions,” according to the Scottish Government’s climate change plan update.

As part of the £90 million Falkirk Growth Deal, Grangemouth is set to become the UK’s key innovation district for sustainable chemicals and manufacturing excellence, which includes advancing technology for carbon capture and industrial bio-technology.

HeraldScotland: GrangemouthGrangemouth

It is thought that innovation campuses could also be developed at Grangemouth as part of the growth deal.

The Falkirk Economic Partnership which includes input from the Scottish Government, Falkirk Council and Ineos and other business leaders is drawing up an action programme to secure wider benefits focused on net zero and inclusive economic growth.

But research group, Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS), has warned the Scottish Government’s plan is “not fit for purpose and will fail to deliver the infrastructure needed for net zero emissions in Scotland”.

The organisation has warned that the infrastructure to go alongside the technology has not been drawn up, despite ambitions to have carbon capture and storage “operational in the mid-2020s".

READ MORE: Scotland should become 'carbon capture hub' for Europe as part of climate strategy

In a submission to Holyrood’s economy committee, SCCS added: “The plan does not adequately consider infrastructure needs relating to CCS and hydrogen, and risks hampering their deployment.

“At minimum Scotland will need on- and offshore CO2 pipelines, between the central belt and the North East and out to the offshore 17 storage sites, as well as potential upgrades to port and harbour facilities to enable the transport of CO2 by ship for storage in Scottish sites.”

Despite calls from campaigners to speed up decarbonisation, Ineos has warned that if its operation is halted or scaled back quickly, its products “will be manufactured elsewhere and transported back to Scotland, adding significantly to the global emissions”.

The Ineos plant at Grangemouth has an annual turnover of £1.2 billion and supports around 900 direct jobs and around 5,000 indirect employees. Around 30 per cent of Scotland’s GDP flows through Grangemouth Port.

The industry remaining competitive against its global peers has also been taken on board by the Scottish Government – forced to balance the economy with the desperate need to cut emissions.

Sasha Maguire, a Scottish Government senior economic adviser told MSPs that “there are risks to the industrial sector if it becomes less competitive on a cost basis and that Scottish industries would become less competitive if they were required to decarbonise at a faster pace than their competitors”.

READ MORE: Scotland to become 'world’s first zero emission aviation region'

But Ineos has caused anger after bosses “politely declined an invitation” to give evidence to MSPs investigating a transition to a carbon zero economy – leading to accusations of “arrogance”.

Scottish Labour environment, climate change and land reform spokesperson, Claudia Beamish, said: “Reducing emissions from our heavy industries is a significant challenge and a vital part of decarbonisation.

“Carbon capture and storage, along with renewables, may well help meet climate targets but considerable work would need to be done to make CCS an affordable and viable solution to decarbonise Grangemouth.”

HeraldScotland: Scottihs Labour environment spokesperson, Claudia BeamishScottihs Labour environment spokesperson, Claudia Beamish

But Ms Beamish has warned that carbon capture technology “is not net zero”.

She added: “The Scottish Government should continue to pursue viable, well tested pathways such as investing in the range of renewable energy regeneration and energy efficiency measures. These must have a just transition process at their core with a transferable skills training strategy.

“The SNP Government is responsible for reducing climate emissions and has made its commitment clear, pledging £60 million to support decarbonisation of the industrial and manufacturing sector, to cut emissions and develop new jobs.

“Private companies must take responsibility for developing robust contributions to net zero and any Scottish Government funding should be conditional on demonstrating this.

READ MORE: Scottish Government's failure to meet carbon emission target blamed on cold weather

“We have yet to see the ways in which the Scottish Government intends to achieve its stretching 2030 targets. The SNP government must now show real pathways and details in the climate change update that can be scrutinised, and set out a timetable for delivery.”

Ryan Morrison, just transition campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:“Ineos was by far the largest climate emitter in Scotland last year, with five of its Grangemouth operations among the top ten carbon polluters, so clearly to meet our climate targets the Scottish Government needs to ensure there is a credible plan to transform the site away from fossil fuels.

“The Scottish Government's climate plans put huge expectations on risky technologies like carbon capture that are simply not ready to deliver at the pace or scale needed, if they ever will be, to deal with energy and industrial emissions.

HeraldScotland: IneosIneos

“This is a dangerous distraction that delays the real work needed to shape a new, sustainable and secure future for the site with a just transition for workers and communities.”

He added: “The fact that Ineos is rejecting the invite to speak to the Scottish Parliament committee reflects the arrogance of a company whose strategy ignores the reality of the climate emergency.

"If Ineos won’t engage in plans to decarbonise the economy and build a fairer and greener society, the Scottish Government must bypass the company and set about creating a just transition plan for the site with the engagement of workers, trade unions and the local community."

The Scottish Greens have called for the SNP to “take a more interventionist approach” to decarbonising Grangemouth and draw up plans to sharply cut emissions, claiming private companies cannot be trusted.

Scottish Greens energy spokesperson Mark Ruskell added: “Given the levels of pollution from Grangemouth and the relentless pursuit of fracking licences across central Scotland, it would be foolish for the Scottish Government to trust that Ineos will be able to lead a transition away from fossil fuels. Indeed, the firm will not even appear in parliament to face scrutiny.”

Mr Ruskell also said that “cutting Grangemouth’s carbon footprint as quickly as possible while ensuring the community have alternative jobs is the biggest priority”.

Ineos said it reduced its emissions at its Grangemouth site by 37 per cent from 2008 to 2018.

A spokesman added: “Ineos O&P UK’s petrochemicals are used in a wide range of every day and essential products, currently protecting front line healthcare professionals and their patients, whether through the use of PPE or the application of medicines to treat the effects of the pandemic and the development of antiviral drugs. The use of plastics has been invaluable during these unprecedented times.

HeraldScotland: Ineos CEO Jim RatcliffeIneos CEO Jim Ratcliffe

“Carbon dioxide emissions are closely linked to the amount of energy required for the conversion of raw materials to useful products to take place. We continue to look at ways in which this can be made to be more efficient, including further energy improvement and CO2 reductions that will ensure the long term viable future and global competitiveness of the site.

“We do our utmost to do this as efficiently and environmentally responsibly as possible – because this is how we will remain in business. If our products are no longer made in Scotland, then they will be manufactured elsewhere and transported back to Scotland, adding significantly to the global emissions per tonne of product needed by Scottish manufacturing.

“We have declined the invitation to the committee reviewing the climate change plan because we think that the committee would be better served by involving the Chemical Industry Association who can give a broader industry input. We believe that comments on the climate change plan is one for the sector in Scotland as a whole. Ineos is engaged with the Scottish Government, and UK Government, to help create policies and approaches which work towards net-zero emissions.”