COP26 climate summit leaves world on the road to hell, not in a handcart but a private jet – Kenny MacAskill MP

The COP26 climate summit has been and gone but what’s its legacy for Scotland, as well as for humanity?

I was on the march almost a fortnight ago and it was huge, despite the weather and difficulties in accessing Glasgow. The train I was on busy with young and old, and from all parts of the globe.

A train as busy as that’s usually only seen on big sporting occasions or perhaps pre-Christmas shopping. But they had a mood of determination, even if optimism was low. The latter sentiment, which was sometimes more akin to cynicism, was sadly proven to be correct, and will continue as the climate crisis only deepens for humanity.

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The legacy for some lands will be appalling and, for many people, it could be fatal. The poorest and weakest, the most vulnerable, have been abandoned. Catastrophe and conflict beckon and yet the richer and developed world will not avoid it either. The consequences will be felt by all as millions flee, with many having nothing left to lose and so strike out in fear and pain.

When some are claiming that the world has kept 1.5C alive and yet it’s only just so, it’s a failure. More could and should have been done and no amount of greenwashing will change that.

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But what of Scotland? For sure, the First Minister has plenty more photos with the great and good to put on her wall and our other national drink received promotion it could only have dreamed of. What’s the legacy left for having hosted the event?

This was an opportunity to showcase a better and cleaner way, helping locally and contributing globally. But in that Boris Johnson and the Tories failed spectacularly, matching the failure abroad with leaving nothing behind.

A family stops to see if their house and two cats will escape a wildfire in Tujunga near Burbank, California, a state which has faced increasing numbers of fires as the climate has got hotter (Picture: David McNew/Getty Images)

Two issues that could have played a significant part to building a better Scotland and helping the challenges faced with cutting emissions were flunked.

Firstly, there was the failure to back the carbon-capture-and-storage proposals for St Fergus near Peterhead. They may yet be dragged kicking and screaming to deliver it, but it should have been done then and there.

Not only is the project better placed than its rivals, but with Scotland having 30 per cent of Europe’s carbon storage capacity through the North Sea’s geology then it was a no-brainer. But whether through climate scepticism or prejudice, they failed.

Similarly, the optics for the global jamboree were awful, whether through motorcades or the jets flying in and out. You’d have thought it an opportunity to announce an investment in high-speed rail. Other countries do it as a matter of course.

The distances between Edinburgh and London, and Barcelona and Madrid are uncannily similar, yet the former rail journey takes four hours 20 minutes at best and the latter two hours 30 minutes. The cost differential is similarly marked. Glasgow/London and Madrid/Seville are likewise with a faster and cheaper link in Spain.

But instead of seeking to reduce red-eye flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Tories have sought to incentivise them by reducing air passenger duty.

We’re on the road to hell in a jet, not a handcart, but the struggle continues.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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