COP26: First Minister's statement - 16 November 2021

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the 16th November in the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.

Presiding Officer,

On Saturday, COP26 concluded with 197 countries adopting the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Today, I will report briefly on the Scottish Government’s activities during COP and offer our preliminary view on the agreement.

Firstly though, I want to record my gratitude to all those who helped ensure that the hosting of the summit was a success.

COP26 was one of the most important events ever held in Scotland - and also one of the largest.

More than 40,000 people registered to attend - a higher number than for any of the previous 25 COPs.

In addition, tens of thousands of activists visited the city.

Some inconvenience was inevitable from an event of that scale and I know the city did experience disruption.

But the warmth and the enthusiasm of Glasgow’s welcome was praised by every international visitor I met.

So my first and very heartfelt thank you today is to the people of Glasgow.

I also want to thank the Scottish Events Campus, Glasgow City Council, all volunteers, and partners across the public and private sectors whose hard work made the event possible.

My thanks go also to the United Nations and in particular to the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa.

The UK COP president, Alok Sharma, also deserves huge credit. He and his team worked tirelessly to secure the best possible outcome. I am also grateful to them for keeping me well briefed throughout the negotiations.

Finally, peaceful protest is vital at any COP. 

It keeps pressure on negotiators and reminds those inside the blue zone of the vital job they are there to do.

Over the course of the two week event, more than 400 protests were staged across Glasgow.

That there were fewer than 100 arrests in total is a real credit to protestors, but also to Police Scotland.

COP 26 has been the biggest policing operation ever undertaken in the UK and I want to pay tribute to the Chief Constable and to all officers, from forces across the UK, who worked under his command, for the highly professional manner in which that operation was conducted.

Over these past two weeks, the eyes of the world have been firmly on Scotland and we have shown the best of our country to the world.

Amongst the almost 500 meetings, events and other engagements undertaken by Ministers - including almost 100 that I undertook personally - many were with businesses and potential investors in green innovation.

We also took the opportunity to strengthen our bilateral relationships with a number of countries and regions across the world.

As well as showcasing the country, of course the Scottish Government also set clear objectives for our participation in COP itself.

Firstly, we aimed to amplify voices that are too rarely heard in discussions of these type - for example, of young people, women and those from the global south - and we sought to be a bridge between these groups and the decision makers around the negotiating table.

To that end, we funded the Conference of Youth when the UK government opted not to.

We supported the Glasgow Climate Dialogues to give a platform to voices from developing and vulnerable countries.

And, in partnership with UN Women, we launched the Glasgow Women’s Leadership Statement on gender equality and climate change.

I was joined for the launch of that statement by the leaders of Bangladesh, Tanzania and Estonia, and the statement has now already been signed by more than 20 countries.

We also endorsed the UNICEF declaration on children, youth and climate action.

Second, we worked hard to ensure that cities, states, regions and devolved governments played our full part in securing progress.

Scotland is currently the European co-chair of the Under2 Coalition, which held its General Assembly during COP.

More than 200 state, regional and devolved governments are now members of the Under 2 Coalition.

Collectively, and very significantly we represent almost 2 billion people and account for half of global GDP.

In the run up to COP, the Coalition sought to maximize that influence by launching a new memorandum of understanding, committing members to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest and for individual members to reach it earlier if possible. 28 governments have already signed up and we are actively encouraging others to do so.

Finally, more than 200 cities and states have now signed up to the Edinburgh declaration on biodiversity. That represents really welcome progress as we look ahead to the biodiversity COP next year.

Our third objective was to use COP to challenge ourselves to go further and faster in our own journey to net zero.

That is why I chose - as my first engagement at COP - to meet with climate activists Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg.

It is also why we have moved away from our previous commitment to maximum economic recovery of oil and gas and have embarked on discussions with the new Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance.

We also published additional detail on our policy ambitions for onshore and offshore wind, and launched a new Hydrogen strategy, and a £55 million Nature Restoration Fund.

We published a new planning framework with climate action at its heart.

And we promoted our Green Investment portfolio to a range of businesses and investors.

We also launched the Blue Carbon International Policy Challenge; supported international agreements on low carbon transportation and reducing agricultural emissions; and signed new Memorandums of Understanding on heat with Denmark, and on peatlands with Chile.  A full list of these initiatives and of the ten international agreements we signed will be placed in SPICE later this week.

Of course, our most important objective was to use our engagement, influence and interaction to push for an international agreement that would live up to the urgency of the climate emergency.

We wanted to see action to limit global warning to 1.5°C - and, as a minimum, a tangible mechanism to keep 1.5 alive.

We wanted the $100 billion of finance, promised by the global north to developing nations 12 years ago, to be delivered.

And we wanted to see the developed world recognise its obligation to help developing countries pay for loss and damage they are already suffering as a result of the climate change they have done so little to cause.

The Glasgow Climate Pact does represent progress on many of these issues - but it must now be built on and built on quickly if climate catastrophe is to be avoided.

It is important that the necessity of capping temperature increases at 1.5 degrees is no longer questioned.

However, the world is still on a path to temperature increases of well over 2 degrees - a death sentence for many parts of the world. To keep 1.5 degrees in reach, global emissions must be almost halved by the end of this decade.

So the requirement for countries to come back next year with substantially increased nationally determined contributions is vital.

Finance is crucial to faster progress.

I welcome the aim of doubling finance for adaptation by 2025, and the commitment to a longer term finance goal.

But it is utterly shameful that the developed world could not deliver the $100bn of funding promised in 2009, by the 2020 deadline - or even by 2021.

This COP also delivered significant commitments on methane and deforestation. And for the first time - albeit in language watered down in the final moments - a COP cover text has agreed the need to move away from fossil fuels.

In the run up to COP - and as a result of what we heard during the Glasgow Climate Dialogues - the Scottish Government decided to champion the issue of loss and damage.

Two weeks ago we became the first developed country in the world to make a commitment to support countries experiencing loss and damage. I’m delighted that our commitment has since been supplemented by Wallonia, and by a contribution from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

The final position agreed at Glasgow represents progress in recognizing the loss and damage that the climate crisis created by developed nations, is already causing in developing nations – but it does not go nearly far enough.

I particularly regret the decision by some developed nations to block the establishment of a Glasgow Financial Facility on Loss and Damage. 

Over the weekend I met with Dr Saleemul Huq, one of the leading campaigners on this issue and pledged that the Scottish Government will continue to work with him and others to build the case on loss and damage ahead of COP27 in Egypt.

Loss and damage was an example of Scotland’s leadership during this COP.

But ultimately Scotland can only lead and speak with credibility, if we deliver our own net zero targets.

As I reflect on the past two weeks, I feel pride in the leadership that Scotland has shown and been recognised for widely.

However, I also feel a renewed sense of responsibility to go further and faster, to face up to tough challenges as well as the relatively easy options, and to help raise the bar of world leadership more generally.

And so our focus in the months and years ahead will be firmly on delivery.

Presiding Officer,

This decade will be the most important in human history.

The actions we take between now and 2030 that will determine whether or not we bequeath a sustainable and habitable planet to those who come after us.

The stakes could not be higher - and so I absolutely understand why many are angry and frustrated that more progress was not made in Glasgow.

However the Glasgow Climate Pact does provide a basis for further action. The key test will be whether it is implemented fully and with the required urgency.

That is what all of us must focus our efforts on between now and COP27 and then beyond.

Scotland will continue, I’m sure, to play our full part.

While we can be proud of the part we played at COP26, our responsibility now is to ensure that future generations will look back and be proud of the actions we take in the months and years ahead.

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