As the world continues to grapple with the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19 our focus is rightly on saving lives and protecting people’s jobs in the face of a pandemic.
But amid these enormous challenges, the climate emergency has not gone away – far from it – and the Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045. Indeed, I am very clear that it must be central to our future.
We are committed to a ‘green recovery’ from Covid-19 in which we capture the potential opportunities of our transition to net-zero including in green jobs, business growth and wellbeing. It is an approach that is fundamentally important to the future prosperity of our people and planet.
Scotland’s emissions reduction targets are world-leading. So too is our legislative commitment to a Just Transition – in which the benefits of decarbonisation are shared and no one is left behind. We are already taking action to deliver a green recovery which has fairness at its heart.
We recently announced groundbreaking plans to invest nearly £1.6 billion in transforming heat and energy efficiency of buildings - rapidly accelerating the decarbonisation of an area which makes up a quarter of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions.
This five-year investment programme will support thousands of jobs, as well as making a significant impact on reducing emissions and helping to remove poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty.
This is an important example of how we are ensuring a green recovery and a just and fair transition to net zero. No-one should underestimate the transformation that will be required right across our economy and society as we ramp up plans to reduce our emissions but we are determined that it is a road we will walk together.
As has been said by many, when the kaleidoscope of our lives is shaken, we have the opportunity to see things put things back together differently. It is vital that we learn from our experience of lockdown – the things we’ve learned about how we work, travel and live – and apply this to our approach to achieving net-zero. That is why the events, initiatives and campaigns that have run throughout Climate Week have been so important, and I hope many took the opportunity to think about how their community, business or organisation can really get behind our net zero mission and harness the many benefits it can bring our economy and society.
Scotland was one of the first countries to declare a climate emergency and our emissions targets are world leading. but the threat of climate change is a global one, requiring a global response. Just as the response to Covid-19 has been universal, our journey to net zero must be the same. We must work together as we seek to build a greener, fairer and more equal society and economy.
That is why, despite the very real and pressing issues we must all face in fighting the coronavirus pandemic – or, in fact, because of them - we must ensure our economic and social recovery is green. Not just at home, but across the world.
Next week, both myself and Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham will be taking part in New York Climate Week– virtually, of course.
It will be an opportunity to pursue and develop our green recovery agenda with our global partners and particularly within the Under2 Coalition, a group of more than 220 governments representing over 1.3 billion people and 43 per cent of the global economy.
I will attend the Under2 General Assembly next week – again virtually – at which Scotland will be formally announced as European co-chair of the Coalition for the next two years. It is an honour to be asked to serve as European co-chair and Scotland is determined to place inclusion at the heart of our work. For example, those least responsible for the climate emergency – including those in the global south – face its worst impacts. We must ensure their voice is heard.
Likewise, we will bring our renowned experience in delivering an ambitious but fair and just transition to the role.
And we will also encourage collaboration in the run up to COP26. The next 24 months will be a critical time for climate action. 2020 marks five years since the Paris Agreement and November 2021 will see the postponed COP26 take place in my home city of Glasgow. Just as I am determined that a green recovery is at the heart of Scotland’s response to Covid-19, it is equally crucial that our time as co-chair helps drive momentum towards COP26 and beyond, building on green recovery plans and helping set the world on course to net zero in a way that is fair and just.”