In less than two months, world leaders will gather in Glasgow for the 26th Convention of the Parties, known as COP26. This is our best, and possibly our last, opportunity for the world to commit to urgent climate action that also furthers equality and fairness.
As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, we see it as only right that Scotland is at the forefront of the green revolution. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make changes that will be good for our people, our communities, our economy and our planet. The challenge and the opportunity of net zero is one that is being faced by countries around the world and there can be no doubt that the world is watching to see how fossil-fuel intensive, smaller economies like Scotland manage the transition to a net zero society and fulfill our obligation to decarbonise.
Scotland was amongst the first to declare a climate emergency and we have committed to ambitious targets and principles in legislation while also delivering on the far-reaching recommendations of expert groups, including our Just Transition Commission. The actions we have taken so far have cut our emissions in half but we now have to do more and that includes answering the difficult questions posed by decarbonisation. Ensuring our transition is a just transition is how we choose to answer that net zero challenge. In Scotland we have recent and painful experience of unfair and unplanned transitions in many industries. Our former coal-mining communities still bear the scars of rapid, unplanned change. That cannot happen again.
If Scotland, as a nation, can get this right, then decarbonising our economy through a just transition will have positive impacts on every aspect of our lives.
A just transition means:
- Skills training and education that helps to secure good, high value jobs in green industries like low-carbon manufacturing, renewables, and tech;
- Job security for those in industries that will play the biggest part in the transition – at every level – from those working in petrol stations to those on oil platforms.
- Homes that are energy efficient and help to reduce fuel poverty.
- Building infrastructure, transport and communities that support our efforts to decarbonise, to enhance biodiversity and which are resilient in the face of the impact of climate change that we are already feeling.
- Making sure the costs do not burden those least able to pay and the benefits of our transition are felt regardless of where you live, who you are and what you do.
As we tackle emissions, this is also an opportunity to seek out lasting positive societal change: for example, ensuring our efforts to tackle the climate crisis support our efforts to deliver social justice. Such synergies will be an essential part of the development and delivery of our Just Transition Planning.
Though we are a small country, we will show that a fair transition is possible. We can build frameworks that can be replicated at scale; we can show how transition can be co-designed and co-delivered with business, trade unions, communities and all of society, with transparency and accountability; we can show how we build resilience to the impacts of climate change.
The transition to net zero will impact our whole economy and necessitate an economic transformation. Our actions to ensure fairness will be integral to securing and maintaining support for the scale and pace of change required. The upcoming National Strategy for Economic Transformation will set out how we will support that transformation in a way that protects our people and our planet. Our Just Transition Plans will therefore be a core part of delivering on those commitments.
We act with such ambition because that is what the scale of the challenge demands. We must be bold, innovative and willing to learn as we act. We also act in the hope that our work can be an exemplar to our international partners. We will be seizing the opportunity of COP26 to showcase this work to the world, inviting them to join us in this shared global endeavour.
I am excited to take this journey to a fairer, greener Scotland with you.
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