​This COP summit must see real climate action - Lorna Slater

Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna SlaterMinister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater
The days ahead will be crucial for our planet. This year’s COP climate conference must succeed where others have failed.

These summits are a big undertaking. They see thousands of leaders, civil servants and scientists coming together to shape our response to climate breakdown.

There was a lot of hope and excitement in the air two years ago when Scotland played host. We were told it was our “last best chance” to avert crisis. However, when push came to shove, leaders backed down. There were warm words, but that isn’t enough.

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There was good progress in key areas, such as on reducing coal and on support for countries being hit by climate damage, with then First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announcing Scotland would lead the change with a groundbreaking new fund.

Yet, delegates failed to reach the consensus that was needed on the timescales of our transition away from oil and gas. It was far too little and too late.

This time it is Dubai that is hosting and the challenge is even more urgent. A recent UN Environment Programme report warned we are on course for a 3C temperature rise instead of our targeted 1.5C. It may not sound like a lot, but it puts millions of lives at risk.

This last 12 months has been a record-breaking year for our climate and not in a good way. 2023 has been the world’s hottest year on record, with the hottest summer ever. We’ve had 12 months of unrelenting extreme weather, with deadly heat waves, wildfires and floods.

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Communities across Scotland have felt the impact first hand, with floods punishing towns and villages across the north east and forcing hundreds of people from their homes, while the highlands experienced one of the largest wildfires in its history.

We cannot allow these extreme weather events to become our new normal.

But COP itself is not the be-all-and-end-all. We don’t need an international agreement to know that we have to take our environment seriously. It should not limit our ambitions.

That’s why, with Scottish Greens in government, we have been able to deliver record investment in nature and biodiversity projects and active travel and are making strides to transform how we heat our buildings and produce our energy.

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Those are the kind of steps we need to see from every government, regardless of what is agreed in Dubai.

Can this year’s summit finally live up to the scale of the challenge and take the action this is required? We all have to hope so.

But whatever success or failure comes from COP, we cannot let it stop us making the change that is so vital.

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