Race to Zero event: First Minister's speech - 6 March 2021

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's speech at the Race to Zero event organised by Scottish Development International on Tuesday 9 March 2021.

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, said last month that “COP26 in Glasgow will be a make it or break it occasion” for the planet.

That’s because the commitments that nations made six years ago in Paris, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, are not enough to slow down the current climate crisis.

And even if they were, the commitments made in Paris are not currently being met.

And so the decisions made at COP26 - in Glasgow later this year – will affect the prosperity, health, and wellbeing of all of us. COP26 is vital, to the future of the planet we share.

For Scotland, hosting such a gathering is a huge honour – but it is also a huge responsibility.

We have a responsibility of course, working with the UK Government, to help deliver a safe and secure conference.

But above all, we have a responsibility to lead by example. As one of the nations which helped to create the industrial age, we want this year, to help to lead the world into the net zero age.

Scotland already has the world’s most ambitious framework for emissions reduction. Our actions against our targets have seen us nearly halve our emissions since 1990. Indeed, as the U.K.’s committee on climate change recently stated ‘Scotland has decarbonized more quickly…than any G20 economy since 2008.”

And in 2045, when we are pledged to become a net zero economy, Scotland’s contribution to climate change will end altogether.

We also have a very clear ambition that our transition will be a just one.

Like many countries, Scotland was scarred by deindustrialisation in the 1970s and 1980s. As someone who grew up in the west of Scotland at that time, I vividly remember the damage done to lives and communities.

And so we are determined to ensure that decarbonisation is different – that its benefits are fairly shared, and that we identify and mitigate its harmful consequences.

To help achieve this ambition – of a just transition to net zero – Scotland is working with partners, not just within our own borders, but also right around the world.

We are an enthusiastic partner in the Under2 Coalition of cities and regions – in fact we are the European co-chair of that Coalition this year.  

And we are keen to encourage even deeper levels of cooperation. That is why Scotland is launching a new Net Zero Leaders Group with Bloomberg Philanthropies. We hope that it will strengthen state and regional leadership on climate ambition, in advance of COP26.

We are also increasingly reaching out to the investment and business community. They have an essential part to play, in any successful transition to net zero.

Our Climate Change Plan makes clear that we will need more investment in net zero infrastructure - from offshore wind to heat networks. We are also investing in nature-based solutions - like woodland creation and peatland restoration - that can reduce emissions, restore our environment and create jobs.

Scotland of course currently does very well in attracting inward investment. We also perform relatively strongly at attracting capital investment in the low carbon or net zero sector. And this year, we have launched a new National Investment Bank. Its key mission will be to help the transition to a net zero economy.

But the scale of our net zero ambitions means that we need new and additional sources of investment.

That is why, later this month, we will launch a new Global Capital Investment Plan.

It covers three broad areas – commercial property, infrastructure, and direct investment into businesses. And it sets out how we will attract the investment we need to become a successful net zero economy.

The plan is informed by detailed analysis. For example we have identified sectors where Scotland might be particularly attractive to investors – such as renewable technology, life sciences, digital and IT. We have also assessed how these sectors match with global demand for investment.

And using that analysis, we are now working to build links with potential partners elsewhere in the UK, across Europe and around the world.

This two day event is part of that broader programme of relationship-building.

We hope that it will help to inform and inspire you, by highlighting the scale of Scotland’s net-zero ambitions.

And in the longer term, we hope that by cooperating more closely with the financial and business community, we can secure sustainable returns for investors, while achieving economic, environmental and social benefits for our country.

The final point I want to make is that the task that all of us face this year – of trying to set the world on a more sustainable course – is a difficult one and it is an urgent one. But it is not an impossible one.

All of us have seen over the last year, that when it is necessary, governments and people can achieve extraordinary things.

In the last 12 months, we have seen people pull together, in order to protect each other, in ways that would normally have seemed unimaginable.

Entire testing infrastructures have been put together from scratch.

The world has developed new vaccines from a standing start.

The urgency we showed in the face of a virus, now needs to be shown in the face of an even greater threat. For all the convulsions of last year, climate change remains the greatest challenge facing this planet. And COP26 is our best, perhaps our only, chance to address it.

Scotland – as a proud host, and as a responsible global citizen – will do everything we can to play our part. We want to work with as many of you as possible as we do that.

So thank you for taking part in this event.

And I hope that the next two days provide you with new contacts, good ideas and fresh inspiration – as all of us work together, towards COP26.

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