Scotland working for a  just transition to green energy - Lorna Slater

Last week I was proud to be the first ever Green Minister from anywhere in the UK to attend the British-Irish Council in Blackpool.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity. Picture: PA
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity. Picture: PA

While there I joined the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, the Irish Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, and other Ministers and leaders from across the UK and Ireland.

Established as part of the Good Friday agreement, the British-Irish Council meets every six months. It provides a forum for leaders and governments across the UK and Ireland to come together and share experiences.

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The theme of the summit was Sustainable Growth and Regeneration, with discussion focusing on how we can ensure a just energy transition.

This gave the First Minister and I the chance to share the positive climate action we are taking in Scotland, and to discuss some of the ways that we can work together to tackle the climate and nature crises.

They are international threats, and they need international responses. If we are to have any chance of mitigating the worst impacts of the climate crisis then it will need coordination, cooperation and real and meaningful climate actions from all levels of government.

Of course, the British-Irish Council is only one of the international forums that we need to use to its full extent.

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Many of the most important decisions that will shape our future are being discussed this week at the COP 27 climate conference in Egypt. The summit, which has brought together leaders from 198 counties will close on Friday.

Last year’s COP agreements did not go anywhere near far enough, and the situation has only got worse since, with record temperatures and even more extreme weather events. The governments represented can’t show the same weakness this time.

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The need for global action can not detract from the obligation for individual governments to lead by example.

That is what we are doing with Greens in government in Scotland. We are putting climate change right at the heart of every decision we make, even with the limited powers available to us.

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We made important progress last week with the publication of new planning rules that will accelerate the deployment of renewables across Scotland. Scottish Renewables have described the plan as a "remarkable and major step forward" for the system.

This builds on the work we are doing to cut emissions and will help us to deliver the ambitious commitments that we have made to expand solar energy and double onshore wind capacity.

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It also means seizing opportunities in every community. For example, when the Michelin Tyre factory in Dundee closed, the Scottish Government worked closely with Michelin, academics and others to repurpose the site and establish it as an “innovation park.” By doing this we were able to provide new employment and training opportunities in low-carbon industries.

This is the kind of drive we need to see in all aspects of our economy if we are to make the transformative changes that are needed.

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What's clear is that the work can't stop when the summits end. Whether it is the British-Irish Council, COP 27 or any of the other conferences and forums. Building a sustainable climate and economy will always be an ongoing process rather than a single event.

None of this will be simple, and it’s going to take time and political will. We all need to be honest and learn from past mistakes. A Just Transition can’t happen overnight, and nor can it happen without a fundamental commitment and action from businesses and governments.

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Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity