Scotland's International Strategy

This strategy sets out our approach to international engagement and delivery to the end of the current parliamentary term.

3. Climate Change, Biodiversity and Renewable Energy

3.1 Our Aims

Scotland’s natural environment is our greatest national asset. Its awe-inspiring, globally renowned landscapes are vital to our health, our wellbeing and our economy, supporting the productivity of many sectors, and supplying energy, resources and essential natural processes. Despite this, important aspects of our natural environment are under threat as Scotland, like many other countries around the world, is directly impacted by the twin crises in climate and nature. While there is further to go, we are proud of the progress we are making in Scotland. Our innovative Environment Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s long-term ambitions and priorities for restoring Scotland’s natural environment and playing its part in tackling the twin global climate and nature emergencies.

Climate change, biodiversity and renewable energy are key priorities of our international activity. This includes continuing to meet or exceed existing environmental standards, backed by our strategic approach to environmental policy; assisting Scotland with its journey to meeting net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases through a Just Transition, as well as marketing Scotland’s capabilities on energy transition including in hydrogen and wind power, and supporting renewable energy initiatives in, and knowledge sharing with, our international development partner countries.

Our international efforts will be key to furthering Scotland’s place in the world and attracting innovation, investment and partnerships that bring benefits and build on Scotland’s legacy on policy issues at COP28, COP27 and COP26. They are also part of our international development offer, through our support for renewable energy and climate change initiatives.

In this chapter we present the key policy sectors that drive activity to boost economic growth, address global climate change and promote domestic efforts along with the geographic areas where we focus our international effort.

3.2 Our Approach

Climate change is a policy area where there are significant opportunities and benefits to be had from working with international partners. We face a global crisis where shared ambition and action are prerequisites to achieving the goals of the UN Paris Agreement. That will only be possible with the concerted effort of a multitude of international actors, including governments at all levels. That is why the Global Affairs Framework highlights climate change and climate justice as key parts of our global contribution within the international community and why climate justice is a focus of our Feminist Approach to International Relations. We want the Scottish Government to continue to be recognised as a world leader in tackling climate change and a credible partner in confronting global challenges. We want to showcase the excellent work we are doing to tackle this global challenge and leverage this to enhance our influence in support of increased global ambition and action. We can make a significant contribution through our emissions reduction ambition, our renewable energy delivery and expertise, our knowledge and experience of afforestation and peatland restoration, and our scientific strengths and innovation expertise on nature-based solutions. But we also want to harness the innovation and expertise that exists in our academic institutions, businesses, communities and people.

We cannot do this alone. We will therefore continue to work collaboratively with other nations and through international forums. We do not have all the answers so we want to work with and learn from others and be an integral part of the global solution. We will continue to put people at the heart of our international climate action through our commitment to climate justice and amplifying the voices of communities and institutions in the Global South.

3.3 Climate Change

The global climate emergency we face affects us all. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is clear: human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming, with average temperature reaching 1.1 °C above pre-industrial levels in recent years. We are already seeing the effects of climate change here in Scotland, with more extreme weather events and rising sea levels. So we are committed to playing Scotland’s full part in tackling this global emergency. This means delivering action to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045, through a Just Transition. In direct response to the UN Paris Agreement and the global commitment of limiting average temperature rise to 1.5°C, Scotland’s landmark Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2019 constituted one of the most ambitious legislative frameworks for emissions reduction in the world, making our nation a world leader in climate change policy.

This also means acting internationally to foster global discussion and action, particularly engaging with the most vulnerable. In this way we also aim to cement Scotland’s position as a world leader on climate change and influence the global agenda. Scotland has led on action to address climate justice and loss and damage (L&D), for instance, pioneering funding to address loss and damage, galvanising international agreement on the operationalisation of a LandD Fund and using our convening power to advance global dialogue, increase ambition and accelerate climate action by governments of all levels. Scotland has been the European Co-Chair of the Under 2 Coalition (U2C) since 2020. The Coalition is the largest network of substate governments, states and regions committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier. Today, the coalition represents 177 individual states, regions, provinces and substate governments along with several other national and substate entities: a total of more than 270 actors, totalling more than 50% of global GDP. We have used the last three years to mobilise governments at all levels to increase their ambition towards net zero, Just Transition and increased resilience. Since October 2021, over 50 new and existing members have signed an updated Memorandum of Understanding – explicitly aligning members with a 1.5 °C pathway by 2050. Similarly, since COP26, our COP programmes have amplified voices often marginalised in climate change discussions, connecting them with global decision-makers and supporting their participation in the conference. We will build on this and lead by example using our values, experience and global commitment to play our full part in finding solutions to the climate emergency, learning from other nations to improve domestic policymaking and delivery, sharing our own learning and inspiring others – from governments to businesses, universities, communities and individuals.

We will carry out a range of activity across policy development, international influencing, impact-focused programme delivery, and knowledge and evidence development to make the case for more action to tackle these challenges. To achieve this we will:

  • Continue our COP bridging role by mobilising and aligning loss and damage non-state actors around priority activities that align with the UNFCCC processes. In this way, we will deliver practical loss and damage programmes, securing increased finance globally and increasing the momentum for addressing loss and damage.
  • Push for climate justice and loss and damage programmes to be led by communities. This will ensure that the priorities of affected communities are central to the development and implementation of our interventions. This will help communities in our partner countries to be more resilient and better able to address loss and damage caused by climate change.
  • Seek to enhance the global evidence base on climate justice and loss and damage so that countries and communities are better informed and able to deliver climate justice and loss and damage programmes at scale.
  • Prioritise climate change in the work of our International Network through, for example, facilitating policy exchange with partners and to attracting innovation and investment to Scotland.

3.4 Biodiversity

Our natural world is in crisis. Recent global studies have shown that the health of the world’s ecosystems is declining faster than at any point in human history, with a million species at risk of extinction. The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Risks Report identified biodiversity loss as one of the most severe risks the world faces over the next 10 years.[23] The decline in nature is also reflected in Scotland, where the State of Nature: Scotland Report 2023 confirms that there has been a sustained net loss of biodiversity in recent decades.[24]

The global climate emergency and the nature emergency are twin reinforcing crises: the actions we take to address each are fundamental to our wellbeing and survival as a species. In response to these emergencies, at COP26 the former First Minister endorsed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, an international commitment to reverse biodiversity loss and create a nature-positive world by 2030. We want to accelerate and scale up those efforts to drive landscape and seascape scale recovery. This is why the Scottish biodiversity strategy to 2045 sets out our clear ambition for Scotland to be Nature Positive by 2030, and to have restored and regenerated biodiversity across the country by 2045.

In 2019, the Scottish Government was invited by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to lead a consultation with sub-national bodies on their role in addressing the biodiversity crisis. This culminated in the Edinburgh Declaration which called for a dedicated decision and a renewed Plan of Action on subnational governments to:

  • Take strong and bold actions to bring about transformative change to halt biodiversity loss.
  • Recognise the vital role of sub-state governments, cities and local authorities.
  • Support the adoption at COP15 of a new dedicated Decision for the greater inclusion of sub-state governments, cities and local authorities within the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and adopt a renewed Plan of Action on Subnational Governments.
  • Establish a multi-stakeholder platform that ensures representation of sub-state governments, cities and local authorities.

Over 300 sub-national governments have signed the Declaration and we were delighted that these voices were heard by State Parties during COP15, resulting in a dedicated Decision and adoption of a renewed Plan of Action on Subnational Governments alongside the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework.

Since COP15, we have remained an active member of various key International Networks which support and enhance our domestic work to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, and we will work to raise ambition for biodiversity internationally. In particular, we will:

  • Continue our engagement with the CBD, particularly through our membership of the Advisory Committee on Subnational Governments (AC SNG) to support the implementation of their Strategic Plan for Biodiversity.
  • Build on the legacy of the Edinburgh Process by raising our profile as a frontrunner in delivering innovative and impactful biodiversity policy, working closely with a range of regions and cities globally including across Europe, South Asia and the Americas.
  • Increase knowledge-sharing on nature-based solutions, ecosystem restoration and other key areas, showcasing Scotland’s leading work on the global stage. We will do this through a range of other collaborative networks including the RegionsWithNature (RWN) implementation platform and the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People Subnational Taskforce for 30 by 30.

3.5 Blue Economy

Scotland has almost 19,000 km of coastline and a marine area 7 times greater than our land mass. From tourism to the fishing industry, our marine areas and communities provide an immense contribution to our economy and society with an estimated £4.5 billion in gross value added form the marine economy (2021) and almost 70,000 jobs in the marine economy (2021).[25] In line with our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we want to continue to support this sector while protecting and using our marine resources in sustainable way (SDG 14).

Our Blue Economy Vision for Scotland sets out our long-term ambition for the blue economy to 2045 in which we will seize the opportunities that our seas have to offer. Environmentally, this means ensuring sustainable management of our shared marine space to address the global climate and nature crises by carefully managing increasing competition for space and resources in the marine environment. It also means considering social impacts and working towards fairer, healthier, happier communities across Scotland, with equal access to the benefits from marine resources. Economically, it means creating and maintaining economic prosperity for Scottish people, particularly in coastal and island communities.

A key pillar of realising this vision is international cooperation. Sustainable ocean governance depends on international engagement and we want to work with partners globally to deliver mutually beneficial outcomes for our shared marine space and resources. We will do this by:

  • Seeking opportunities to engage with our European and international partners to learn from others’ experiences, share Scottish expertise, encourage investment and work together.
  • Participating in international forums and negotiations to deliver on our shared commitments and obligations, to ensure marine assets are managed and used sustainably and inclusively to deliver benefit to Scotland, neighbouring coastal states and others, to further our shared values, to support global ocean governance and to maintain Scotland’s international influence.
  • Continuing to develop multidisciplinary science partnerships with international partners to support evidence-based decision-making.

3.6 Hydrogen

The Hydrogen Action Plan (HAP), published in December 2022, outlined the Scottish Government’s commitment to work collaboratively with

VisitScotland / Grant Paterson international partners to develop the global hydrogen economy more quickly. International demand for hydrogen is growing fast, with Germany, Belgium, the European Union and the UK Government all investing heavily having increased their respective hydrogen production and/or import ambitions, and a number of countries in Europe in the process of revising their national strategies.[26] However, as more investments and commercial contracts move forward, action is needed now to ensure that Scotland is able to realise the opportunities presented by this acceleration of the global hydrogen market, particularly with regards to trade policy, standards and regulations, infrastructure, innovation, and the international relationships that support our export ambition.

We are therefore driving action across Scottish Government and the enterprise agencies to meet our ambition of 5 GW of installed hydrogen production capacity by 2030 and 25 GW by 2045, to maximise economic benefit and job creation, and to harness hydrogen’s potential to contribute to reducing emissions and meeting Scotland’s climate targets. International engagement is crucial to cementing Scotland’s profile in Europe as a stable, reliable, major supplier of green hydrogen and to building the international relationships that will secure future trade and investment opportunities.

To achieve this, we will:

  • Promote regional hydrogen cooperation with Scotland’s near northern neighbours and communicate the advantages of hydrogen imports from northern Europe to continental European partners.
  • Cement Scotland’s profile in key strategic regions as a potential major green hydrogen producer for international markets and build relationships that will support future trade opportunities.
  • Support Scottish companies to secure export opportunities in the international H2 market, increasing sales and marketing activity, while also raising awareness of hydrogen opportunities among key partners.
  • Attract inward investment to support the development of Scotland’s hydrogen production pipeline and supply chain through direct engagement with international companies operating across the hydrogen value chain as well as sovereign and international investors.

3.7 Offshore Wind

We want to ensure secure, reliable and affordable energy supplies within the context of long-term decarbonisation of energy generation. Continued growth of the renewable energy sector in Scotland is an essential feature of the future clean energy system and a potential key driver of economic growth.

Offshore wind is a large-scale technology with the potential to play a pivotal role in Scotland’s energy system over the coming decades. The development of technologies such as floating wind, which offer scope for deployment in deeper water, have significant potential to contribute offshore wind energy supply at increasingly affordable prices. Expansion of our offshore wind generation capabilities in the coming years offers a fantastic opportunity to support an energy transition that not only delivers on our climate obligations, but ensures a fair and Just Transition for the energy sector and wider industry.

ScotWind is the first devolved leasing round for offshore wind development in Scottish waters and reflects very significant market ambition for offshore wind – around 28 GW across 20 projects. The Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas (INTOG) decarbonisation leasing round presents significant opportunities to decarbonise oil and gas production in Scotland while, crucially, enabling the offshore wind sector to expand. This leasing round could also potentially add around 5.5 GW of capacity – up to almost 450 MW for innovation projects and 5 GW for targeted oil and gas decarbonisation. Subject to planning and consenting decisions and finding a route to market, we have a current reported potential pipeline of over 40 GW of offshore wind projects.

With scale, offshore engineering heritage, vast natural resources, an extensive network of ports and strong innovation clusters, Scotland’s offshore wind sector will be at the heart of the Europe’s energy transition, and its future energy security for decades to come. We are already home to both the world’s first (Hywind) and one of the world’s largest (Kincardine) floating offshore wind farms. Scotland is now gearing up to deliver other large-scale commercial projects.

The FM Investor Panel highlighted offshore wind as the single most important opportunity for attracting capital to Scotland and raising Scotland’s wider investment profile. That is why we are investing up to £500m over 5 years to stimulate and support private investment in the infrastructure and manufacturing facilities critical to the growth of our world-leading offshore wind sector.

We will work to enhance Scotland’s place as a world leader and destination for offshore wind investment by attracting inward investment to support the development of the supply chain, maximising trade opportunities and driving forward collaboration and knowledge-sharing. To achieve this, we will engage internationally through our offices and partners in a range of countries across Asia, Europe and North America to:

  • Market the opportunity to invest in Scotland to key companies and develop relationships with new and existing inward investors.
  • Deliver a pipeline of investor-ready opportunities.
  • Capitalise on our offshore engineering heritage to promote Scotland’s skills and expertise.
  • Support participation in collaborative projects and gain insight, experience and best practice from other countries.
  • Facilitate inward and outward delegations and deliver events that promote Scotland’s production potential and future export offer.
  • Represent the Scottish Government in international bilateral and multilateral engagements that support policy outcomes delivery and knowledge exchange.



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