Climate change is the most significant crisis that we face. Governments must be ready to take bold and decisive action to reduce emissions, deliver a just transition towards a net-zero future, and increase resilience to climate impacts already locked in. In doing so, we must recognise that these impacts are not shared or felt equally, and that those most affected by climate change – young people, and those from the Global South – have often done the least to contribute to the crisis.
That is why the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which allowed governments, civil society, businesses, and climate activists to come together and commit to greater action on climate change in support of the Paris Agreement, was one of the most significant events ever to be held in Scotland. Over 40,000 people registered to attend – even during a global pandemic, more than any previous COP – and thousands more visited Glasgow during the conference.
While there is much to be pleased about from COP26 – capping temperature increases at 1.5 degrees is no longer questioned, and the Glasgow Climate Pact commits countries to double their provision for climate finance for adaptation – the conference did not deliver as much as many including representatives from the Global South, activists, and campaigners rightly demanded.
We can be proud, as a nation, of what we helped to achieve. It was heartening to hear António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, express his “enormous gratitude to Glasgow and to the people of Glasgow and the Scottish people for their wonderful hospitality and for the excellent preparation of this COP.” The people of Scotland should be commended for the warm welcome they provided to all attendees.
The Scottish Government’s COP26 programme amplified voices often marginalised in climate change discussions, connecting them with global decision makers and supporting their participation in the conference. Working with our public bodies and enterprise agencies, we put on a series of events and made announcements to showcase the action and innovation happening across sectors to reach net-zero and build resilience leading to strategic partnerships with international actors; and where possible our events were hybrid to allow those without accreditation and those who couldn’t travel to Glasgow to participate. We also focused on doing what we could to mobilise increased action – from using our position as European co-chair of the Under 2 Coalition to pivot the coalition towards net-zero – to being the first developed nation to pledge finance for loss and damage. Furthermore, an integrated marketing campaign, designed to support Scotland’s transition to Net Zero by 2045, sought to elevate awareness of the climate emergency with individuals, families and businesses in Scotland and build capability and agency through education on the actions they can take to help meet this target.
What we choose or fail to do now on climate change will shape our entire future. Children and young people from around the world took part in COP26 because they get it – they understand the seriousness of climate change, because they will face what happens next if we do not get it right. Across Scotland many organisations and communities also rose to challenge of COP26, using the opportunity to build connections; advance climate planning and make new commitments; engage people; and be advocates for change. Ahead of COP27 in Egypt, the Scottish Government will match their engagement with a determination to follow through on the promises of COP26, building global partnerships to ensure that that climate action includes and delivers for all those on the front line of the crisis, and to deliver a just transition towards a net-zero future.
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport
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