We don't have to wait for change on climate, we can lead it - Lorna Slater

Over the second week of the COP climate conference I met with activists, campaigners and government representatives from across the globe.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 7:00 am
Lorna Slater, the Scottish Greens co-leader, has said the UK has shown ‘an absolute lack of leadership’ and the ‘watering down’ on fossil fuels in the COP26 draft agreement is ‘devastating.'

I have heard stories about the impact that the climate crisis is having in their communities and the steps that they are taking to tackle it.

One of the best events I was involved in was a panel discussion I hosted about women on the frontline of tackling climate change. It brought together a team of fantastic and inspiring women who are working for people and planet.

They were the women I met when I took part in Homeward Bound, an international programme that brings women together to bridge the link between what science knows and what politicians are not doing about the climate and biodiversity crises.

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Hearing about the different projects they were working on was a reminder that even though the climate crisis is global, a lot of the solutions can be local.

A lot of the biggest changes will need international cooperation. But there are important steps that every government can take right now.

For those of us that represent cities like Edinburgh it means reimagining how our streets would be if they were designed around people rather than cars. It means investing in our green spaces and nature and learning from programmes like Spaces For People, which have made our city more accessible.

One of the policies I’m most proud of in the cooperation agreement that my Green colleagues and I negotiated with the Scottish Government is the commitment to active travel. It runs through everything we are doing.

By 2024/25 we will ensure that 10% of Scotland’s transport budget is invested in active travel. That means investing £320 million a year to boost greener and more sustainable forms of transport: a trebling of the current budget. This will go a long way to making walking, wheeling and cycling natural choices for short journeys, and help to build them into our daily lives and routines.

But if we are to make our streets and roads safer, we must also understand that a lot of people would love to do more walking and cycling but don't like it due to the number of cars on the road and the speeds that they drive at. That is why we have committed to ensuring that all appropriate roads will have a safer speed limit of 20 mph by 2025.

We are already turning our promises into actions. On Thursday I was proud to announce a ban on the most problematic single use plastic in food packaging. Every year, hundreds of millions of pieces of single-use plastic are wasted in this country. They litter our coasts and pollute our oceans. We are working to make that a thing of the past.

By making these kinds of positive changes, Scotland can lead by example and build cleaner, greener and more people-friendly communities here in Edinburgh and beyond.

COP was vitally important, but it was not an end in itself. It cannot be the limit of our ambitions. Tackling the climate crisis must be the priority of every government every single day.

In Scotland we will continue to do our bit, and, over the years ahead, we will work with our friends and allies around the world to lead the change and build a brighter, better future.

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