A Different Environment: Scotland and COP27
As you read this article, negotiations at COP27 will be well underway. The eyes of the world will be focused on international leaders in Egypt, who over the next two weeks must agree meaningful steps to implement the actions they agreed to in Glasgow last year.
And action is a necessity. Our window of opportunity to act to reduce emissions and adapt to the changes that are locked in is narrowing. The IPCC’s third and final report of their latest review of climate science in April said it was “now or never” to limit global warming.
At COP26 in Glasgow last year, progress was made. The Glasgow Climate Pact was an important agreement, which strengthened efforts to build resilience to climate change, curb greenhouse gas emissions and provide the necessary finance for both. There was increasing understanding among developed countries that the climate crisis is neither equal, nor equitable, in its impacts and of the responsibility developed countries bear to act – and act now.
But COP27 will take place against a tense backdrop and the geopolitical landscape has changed significantly in the last year. The impacts of climate change are being increasingly felt – with flooding in Pakistan and devastating food insecurity in Somalia. At the same time, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is forcing countries, particularly in Europe, to rethink long-held assumptions about energy policy and energy security.
That does not mean countries can row back on the commitments made in Glasgow – in fact, it’s more important than ever that they act because the answer to many global challenges lies in tackling climate change and nature loss faster. COP27 must put a renewed focus on the ongoing delivery of the commitments already made and seek agreement for more meaningful action.
Although the Scottish Government is not party to the negotiations at COP, we were proud to host COP26 in Glasgow last year – and are determined to play our part in responding to the global climate emergency.
Scotland has much to offer other countries – and to learn. The Scottish Parliament has passed extremely ambitious targets for Scotland to be net zero by 2045, in recognition of the urgency of the crisis. And we are taking action. We are at the forefront of the journey to reach net zero emissions and build a climate resilient future. We are committed to taking lasting action to drive down our emissions in a way that is just and fair for all.
Being at the forefront also means we are now facing some of the harder challenges when it comes to decarbonisation. Changing how we travel, how we heat our homes and developing more sustainable food supplies are all vital.
On energy, we remain steadfast in our view that the unlimited recovery of hydrocarbons is not consistent with meeting the aims of the Paris Agreement. While some, including the UK Government, seek to increase their extraction of fossil fuels in response to soaring energy prices, the Scottish Government remains committed to a focus on renewable energy and emerging green technologies.
Energy security that focuses on sustainability, with measures to promote energy efficiency, and to accelerate the development of renewable and low carbon energy, is a far better answer to the energy crisis, than increasing reliance on fossil fuel. For example, wind power is already the cheapest form of power in Scotland’s energy mix.
As a country with a large, existing oil and gas sector, we can bring to COP27 our experience of work to deliver a just transition to net zero. A transition that puts people and communities first and harnesses the full range of opportunities that this transformation will bring.
That transition is exemplified by Scotland’s offshore wind industry, with ScotWind representing the world’s largest commercial round for floating offshore wind, breaking new ground in putting large-scale floating wind technology on the map at gigawatt scale.
For Scotland, the transition to net zero is not just an environmental imperative but an economic opportunity – one where we can become world leading and secure first-mover advantage. This means embracing the opportunities presented by net zero technologies, prioritising Scotland’s world-renowned natural capital, and building a sustainable, inclusive economy that is resilient to future shocks.
For example, our 10-year £500m Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray was established in recognition of the particular need to diversify the regional economy away from carbon-intensive industries and to capitalise on the opportunities, including jobs and prosperity, that the transition to net zero will bring.
This focus on a just transition goes further, however, than simply securing employment opportunities at home.
One of the great injustices of climate change is that the people least responsible for global warming are often the ones suffering its worst consequences. This is particularly acute in small island states and countries in the global south.
Countries, like Scotland, which have benefited from sustained industrialisation, have a moral responsibility to support communities and people already facing climate-induced losses and damages. We will use our presence at COP27 to stand beside and in solidarity with communities at the front line of the crisis, acknowledging that for many people around the world climate change is costing them their ways of life, reducing job opportunities, threatening their homes and, for some, it is taking their lives.
As we did at COP26, we will seek to share platforms to amplify the voices at COP27 of those who are often excluded from the debate but most impacted, including the global south, women and youth.
We heard at COP26 how so many countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change do not have the funding for adaptation or for tackling the loss and damage from climate change.
Scotland was the first developed nation to pledge finance to address loss and damage, with a commitment at COP26 of £2m from our Climate Justice Fund. This was followed by contributions of €1m from the Wallonia government and $3m from philanthropists. In September, Denmark pledged around $13m to developing nations affected by climate change and many around the world hope that this will be the Loss and Damage COP.
This is good, but it is not good enough. We are more than a decade on from the commitment in Copenhagen by developed nations to provide climate funding of $100bn a year for adaptation and mitigation. It is time for leaders of developed countries, large and small, to do what is needed to bridge the remaining gap, put on the table the money that is needed to make good on past commitments and unlock progress in other areas, securing separate and additional finance to address loss and damage.
The work that countries like Denmark, and governments like those of Scotland and Wallonia, have done on loss and damage shows how vital leadership at all levels is.
Which is why we were pleased to be reappointed as European Co-Chair of the Under2 Coalition – a coalition of states, regions and devolved governments which comes together to drive climate action. While most of its individual members are small, together they represent 1.75 billion people and 50 per cent of the global economy. I look forward to working with Under2 Coalition members at COP27 to galvanise climate action and share our ambition and vision for Scotland.
This vision is a Scotland that is not only net zero, but is also fairer, resilient to irreversible impacts of climate change and focused on improving our wellbeing.
But getting to net zero and reducing our impact on the climate will require a truly national effort. Individuals, communities and businesses across our society and economy will need to play their part and make the changes needed to rapidly reduce our emissions.
It won’t be easy. The targets are, quite rightly, hugely ambitious, and it will only be possible to meet them through transformational action across our society and economy.
The challenge is the same at a global level. We must think big and be bold if we are to succeed at COP27.
Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe