Climate change Scotland: Why is First Minister Humza Yousaf travelling to COP28 summit in Dubai?

Humza Yousaf has booked his flight to the United Arab Emirates to join international delegates at the annual United Nations climate change summit, which begins in Dubai at the end of the month.

The First Minister will be accompanied on the Middle East trip by net zero secretary Mairi McAllan and Scottish business leaders from various sectors, including renewable energy.

He has pledged to call on world leaders to take greater action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and provide money for poor countries suffering the worst impacts of climate change.

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Mr Yousaf said COP28 was “an opportunity to underline Scotland’s commitment to being a good global citizen and making a constructive contribution to addressing global challenges” such as the biodiversity and climate crises.

The announcement comes as the Scottish Government faces a barrage of criticism for delaying its draft climate change plan, due out this month, and following a series of failures to hit its own environmental goals.

Scottish ministers have in part blamed the UK Government for the need to postpone the plan, saying Westminster’s recent rollbacks on green policies – such as delaying ending sales of petrol and diesel cars and the phase-out of fossil-fuel boilers – have made progress on climate action “harder still”.

But opposition politicians and environmental groups have blasted the move.

Scotland has some of the toughest climate change targets in the world, with the aim to reach net zero by 2045 – five years ahead of the UK-wide date – and interim emissions reduction goals of 75 per cent by 2030 and 90 per cent by 2040.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said he will attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, accompanied by net zero secretary Mairi McAllan and business leaders from a variety of sectors – including renewable energyFirst Minister Humza Yousaf has said he will attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, accompanied by net zero secretary Mairi McAllan and business leaders from a variety of sectors – including renewable energy
First Minister Humza Yousaf has said he will attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, accompanied by net zero secretary Mairi McAllan and business leaders from a variety of sectors – including renewable energy

However, despite the lofty ambitions, eight out of the past 12 annual targets have been missed.

Scottish Conservatives MSP Douglas Lumsden, shadow secretary for net zero, energy and transport, said: “Humza Yousaf would be better off getting his own house in order before he swans off to grandstand at COP28, given the SNP Government’s poor record on the environment.

“It’s a bit rich to claim that Mairi McAllan is going to showcase the progress Scotland is making on net zero – the very day after she announced she was shelving the SNP’s own climate plan.”

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He added: “Humza Yousaf should be using his speech to explain why the SNP is making so little progress on net zero and can’t meet its own targets.”

Mike Robinson, chair of the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition, said: “Our planet is boiling, so the new actions needed to reduce Scotland’s emissions in sectors like transport, agriculture and heating cannot be left to barely simmer for months.

“While it is very encouraging to hear the First Minister and Cabinet secretary restate their strong commitment to climate action in Scotland and to protecting the credibility of Scotland’s global leadership on climate justice at and beyond COP28, this must be backed up with action now and over the next few months.”

He said the delay to the climate plan was “worrying” and “a firm new timeline” was needed. “Bold action is needed sooner rather than later,” he said.

What is COP28 and why is it important?

The summit is the 28th Conference of the Parties, bringing together the 198 countries which ratified the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to discuss action to tackle global warming.

This year’s meeting is being hosted by the UAE, one of the world’s top ten oil-producing countries and current holder of the COP presidency.

The aim of COP28, which runs from November 30 to December 12, is to push for greater action to restrict long-term warming of the planet to 1.5C – as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

This target is crucial to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with scientists warning that a rise beyond 2C would create irreversible and catastrophic effects. However, achieving the goal in time is looking increasingly challenging.

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The world is already around 1.2C warmer than in pre-industrial times, the period before humans began burning fossil fuels on a massive scale. Predictions suggest 2.5C of heating is likely by 2100, even with pledges to cut emissions.

Meanwhile, this year looks set to scoop the title as the planet’s hottest year on record.

So why is Humza Yousaf going to Dubai and is the 7,000-mile round trip worth the spend?

Flying a troupe of politicians and company execs halfway across the world is expensive, both on the purse and the planet. According to carbon footprint calculators, a return business-class flight from Edinburgh to Dubai generates around 3.5 tonnes of emissions.

So is the 7,000-mile round trip worth the spend?

Although Scotland does not have an official seat at the COP table, with Westminster representing all four UK nations, the two-week event provides a world stage and important networking opportunities.

Jamie Livingstone, head of charity Oxfam Scotland, has commended Mr Yousaf’s “determination to show leadership on climate action in Scotland and internationally”.

But he said: “Transformative climate action requires transformative investment, so the burning question for the First Minister today is – where’s that money going to come from?”

Perhaps a clue lies in the First Minister’s statement, announcing the visit. “Only by working together can we meet the need and urgency of the task that lies ahead,” he said.

“COP28 also allows the Scottish Government to advance international relations and build partnerships. Scottish companies will be attending to enhance Scotland’s global reputation, particularly on renewable energy.

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“It’s also an opportunity to attract investment in strategic net zero sectors in Scotland.”

Mr Robinson said he believed Scotland could play an important role in driving progress.

He said: “As we saw at COP26 in Glasgow, when Scotland was the first country to pledge funds for climate-induced loss and damage, Scotland's leadership can break logjams and set a strong example to others.”



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