IF calling something green was enough to make it green, then we would be living in a very different world. Cosmetic changes and greenwashing are not enough if we are to tackle the climate crisis.

It is 20 years since BP rebranded as Beyond Petroleum, promising to “reinvent the energy business” and do things differently.

It didn’t last. Only four years later, a BP oil pipeline leaked 200,000 gallons of oil, causing one of the largest oil spills in Alaska’s history. Then later, in 2010, an explosion on its Deepwater Horizon oil rig unleashed one of the largest marine oil spills in history in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s not just BP. Other oil giants, such as Exxon and Shell, have been just as quick to boast of their supposed environmental credentials while the industry lobbies against environmental regulations and pushes for licences to drill in new oil fields. Talk is easy, but if these companies are serious about green change then they need to start acting like it. Research by environmental lawyers Client Earth has found that between 2010-2018, Shell put just 1% of its long-term investments into sources of low-carbon energy like wind and solar.

The oil companies won’t change their habits off their own accord. Not when it is so profitable for them to continue with business as usual. We’re all seeing skyrocketing energy prices, but, for the polluters, times have rarely been better. Shell and BP made combined net profits of £44,000 a minute in 2021.

That’s why many of us were instantly sceptical when it was revealed that trade body Oil and Gas UK is changing its name to Offshore Energies UK.

It’s obvious why they are doing it. The organisation’s own polling has found the majority of the public do not trust fossil fuel companies to lead the way to net zero. Removing fossil fuels from its marketing may make for better PR, but doesn’t remove them from the business plan.

No rebrand can erase the decades of pollution, damage and the millions of dollars invested in climate denial.

Another rebrand this week was the announcement that Scotland will be the home of two new “green” freeports. These are special economic zones that are being set-up to offer tax breaks and lower business tariffs. They are designated areas of up to 45km where the normal rules and regulations do not apply. In theory they are meant to encourage job creation, but there is little evidence that they do. So far, freeports have shown that they don’t so much create jobs as just take them from other regions and locate them where employers can avoid tax.

It harks back to a Thatcherite policy of enterprise zones, with Clydebank the first enterprise zone in Scotland in 1980. The subsidies and incentives for businesses operating in the zone created a honeypot effect, with industry from elsewhere in the west of Scotland relocating and little or no net increase in employment.

Freeports operate across the world and in some cases are linked to organised crime, including fraud, smuggling and money laundering as well as being used to drive down wages and undermine environmental standards. Despite the branding, the so-called “greenports” that are being introduced here in Scotland do not notably differ from the freeports that are being promoted by the Tories in England.

Those that benefit will be multinational companies, many of which are merely paying lip service to workers rights and some that are already doing their best to avoid tax.

Under the deal that was struck, there are no solid requirements for the companies that benefit from them to meet climate targets or implement fair work practices. That’s a missed opportunity to make sure that industrial complexes such as Grangemouth make a genuinely just transition away from dependence on fossil fuels.

Forth Ports has now confirmed they will be bidding for a Rosyth cluster to be one of the greenports, but it arguably does not have a great record on either the environment or on delivering for surrounding communities.

Back in 2005, Forth Ports infamously tried and failed to drive through plans for ship to ship oil transfers in the Forth. I campaigned with coastal communities at the time who were furious about the potential impact of thousands of tonnes of oil being transferred in pipes between ships bobbing up and down in the open sea. It was a reckless proposal that threatened marine life.

More recently, Forth Ports has failed to reach an agreement with the community in Burntisland over safe access to the harbour which has been used by the community for generations. With greenports set to deliver enhanced powers over planning decisions to harbour authorities, there is a real concern that they are used as a power grab.

The co-operation agreement that we negotiated with the Scottish Government does not include support for freeports. Throughout negotiations it was obvious which direction the Scottish Government was heading on the issue and it was not a direction that we could reconcile ourselves with, so it was listed as an excluded area.

This announcement does not affect the agreement. We will continue to work positively and constructively on the issues that we agree on. The need to maximise the economic benefits for Scotland of the renewables revolution and drive long-term inward investment is a shared objective, but it can’t be delivered at any cost.

Simple re-branding is not enough.