Th UK must deliver on climate change with COP on the horizon - Lorna Slater

There are only six weeks until world leaders head to Scotland for the COP26 climate conference. The decisions that they make while they are here will have an impact for years to come.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 7:00 am
Boris Johnson could learn a lot from Scotland's approach to climate change, says Lorna Slater

Last week, when launching the landmark United in Science 2021 report, the UN General Secretary, António Guterres, warned that the crisis is "already worse than we thought, and it is moving faster than predicted”.

The report shows that the impacts of climate change are already with us. We now have five times the number of recorded weather disasters than we had in 1970 and they are seven times more costly.

We haven’t seen the full impact here in Scotland, but it is something that will affect us all. The flash flooding that we saw in Edinburgh over the summer showed how vulnerable our city is to extreme weather events.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Unfortunately, despite being the host nation and holding a Presidency status, the UK Government is failing to show the climate leadership that is needed.

The trade deal between the UK and Australia felt like a warning of things to come. In a move that was condemned by the Chair of the Climate Change Committee, Lord Deben, a Tory peer, the government has been accused of dropping its commitments on climate change from the deal.

Worryingly, within hours of her appointments, newspapers were already uncovering Tweets by the new Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, in which she appeared to deny the impact of climate change and labelled those that understand it as fanatics.

This month the Independent revealed that Downing Street has been plotting to sideline the Scottish Government from COP in case the event becomes an “advert” for Scottish independence. Not only is the approach extremely petty, it ignores all the good work that is being done up here, and which Boris Johnson and his colleagues could learn a lot from.

Our plans for climate action are bold, progressive and urgent. Over the course of this parliamentary term the Scottish Government will accelerate investment in renewable technology and take vital steps towards the green and just transition that we urgently need.

We will double our onshore wind capacity and expand marine-based renewables, while investing £5 billion in our railways and record amounts in active travel. This will benefit people and the planet, creating thousands of new jobs in the process.

Last week I visited the Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc in Dundee to learn about the groundbreaking work that they are doing to promote sustainable transport and industry, including work to develop hydrogen powered trains. It was an excellent and inspiring visit, especially for an engineer like me, and a welcome chance to discuss their plans to teach young people the skills needed for the green jobs of the future.

The truth is that we all have a role to play if we are to avoid climate breakdown, with the biggest responsibilities falling to the biggest polluters. This government will ensure Scotland is playing its part and doing everything we can to build a greener future.

We are living in unprecedented times that call for decisive action. It is the defining challenge of a generation, and there won’t be any second chances. Previous climate conferences have promised the earth but delivered little in the way of change. COP cannot repeat these mistakes, and nor can the Prime Minister.

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