EDINBURGH, Scotland – Scotland, Europe’s largest producer of oil and gas, is pioneering the use of renewable energy in a bid to meet some of the most ambitious global climate targets.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a “climate emergency” on April 28 and a few days later, made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero in 2045, five years before the rest of the UK.

The country has followed the recommendations of the Climate Change Committee, an independent advisory body, which said that the region has a greater number of sites that can be used to capture and store carbon dioxide and a vast area for planting trees.

If it succeeds in being a carbon neutral economy, capable of absorbing the CO2 it produces, Scotland would overtake the rest of the UK and to the European Union, which has set the objective for 2050, in line with the Climate Agreement of Paris.

Experts such as Karen Turner, director of the Centre for Energy Policy at the University of Strathclyde International Public Policy Institute in Glasgow, said that its biggest challenge will be to convert the oil and gas industry in the North Sea, which is an important part of the national economy.

Turner told Efe that the experience and skills in this sector could be applied to the capture and storage of CO2, the technique used to remove it from the atmosphere or directly prevent it from reaching it.

“Oil and gas extraction sites can be used to store carbon, which can be an opportunity to save jobs, and we know that many of the operators in the sector are interested in this type of mechanism that can change the type of industry North Sea,” she said.

Minister for Energy Paul Wheelhouse said Scotland should lead the development of this complex technology and make it “commercially viable for countries that can not afford such a level of research.”

An average of 1.7 million barrels of oil per day was produced in the North Sea in 2018, an increase of four percent over the previous year and the highest level since 2011, according to the UK Oil and Gas Authority.

Experts agree that, despite still having a significant production of fossil fuels, Scotland has opted to invest in renewable energy sources such as wind and, as of October, managed to produce cleanly an average of 98% of its electricity. The aspiration is to reach 100% next year.

The Orkney Islands, in the northeast, are a great component of this environmental revolution.

They produce more electricity than they can consume thanks to the commitment to wind, tidal and an incipient alternative: the generation of hydrogen from non-polluting sources.

In line with the new measures that the regional executive is implementing against global warming, it has decided to keep the controversial tax paid by passengers to fly from Scottish airports which previously it had committed to reduce.

Sturgeon’s cabinet has backed down by considering that it is not “compatible” with its environmental goals.

Turner said that the issue of how to reduce polluting emissions generated by aviation must be addressed “honestly.”

“This is one of the biggest problems, because we want Scotland to be an accessible and open place to the world, especially in the context of Brexit, and we also try to achieve climate objectives and rethink the issue of aviation, “he said.

Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace warn that meeting the goal of net zero emissions in 2050 is necessary to reduce the increase in the global temperature of the planet from three degrees to 1.5 degrees.