COP26: It’s our future that’s on the line in Glasgow - Lorna Slater

This week Joe Biden and other world leaders will descend on Glasgow for COP26, the UN climate conference. The stakes could not be higher. It has been described as the best, and possibly last, chance to avoid climate breakdown.

By Lorna Slater
Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 7:00 am
World leaders are set to descend on Glasgow for the UN climate conference
World leaders are set to descend on Glasgow for the UN climate conference

There will be senior delegations from more than 100 states in attendance, with all the biggest polluters represented. As the pandemic has emphasised, our lives are interconnected. Climate change can’t be stopped by action in one country alone. It needs all of us to act.

With the UK government playing host, a lot of eyes will be on Westminster. What example will Boris Johnson and his colleagues play in setting a bar and averting the climate crisis?

If they are serious, then their first step must surely be to rule out future drilling in the Cambo oilfield. The proposal that is currently under consideration would see the extraction of 150 million barrels of oil. Many of us, including my Scottish Green colleagues and I, have urged them to reconsider the plans and leave it in the ground.

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So far they have refused to listen. But it’s not just Cambo. The truth is that Boris Johnson could learn a lot from what we are doing here in Scotland. With Greens in government, we are taking vital steps to deliver a fairer, greener, more sustainable future.

With ambitious plans to double Scotland’s onshore wind capacity, invest record amounts in marine energy and boost Scotland's transport infrastructure, we have a good and positive story to tell about how we are securing a just transition for workers while creating thousands of good and well-paid jobs and doing our bit to protect the planet.

Of course it’s not just Scotland that needs to act. We need that same commitment and determination from every government in attendance.

As I think about the weeks ahead, there is a big part of me that is worried. I worry that the outcomes will be too little too late. I worry that we will see the same familiar inability to grasp the scale of the challenge. I worry that for all of the lofty talk and backslapping, future generations will look back and wonder how we got it so wrong.

But I am also stubbornly optimistic. I can see the energy and enthusiasm that it is bringing out in people who want to do things differently. The conversations taking place at COP are vital, but so are the ones that are taking place in homes and communities across our country and beyond.

In the last week alone I’ve been invited to speak to schools, conferences, campaign groups, community meetings and everything else in between. What the sheer number of events and invitations makes clear is that this isn’t just a moment for politicians. It is a moment for all of us, and people are really engaging with it.

There may not be another chance like this. It is not just our climate that will be on the agenda, it is also our future. The decisions that are made over the days and weeks ahead will have ramifications for years to come. That is why we must do everything we can to ensure that they are the right ones.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity

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