Alex Salmond: Our small country can play a big role in climate change fight

THE attention of the world is focused on the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen and Scotland has a great story to tell.

Rarely has such a heavy weight of expectation been on the shoulders of global leaders, as millions of people call for radical steps to finally turn around the ever-looming threats from climate change.

Just yesterday we saw the pressure raised as developing countries made clear their determination to see the developed world meet its side of the bargain, by ensuring the richest nations agree robust, meaningful commitments to cut carbon emissions.

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I'm pleased the UK Prime Minister has decided to come early to the summit –perhaps indicating a growing realisation that world leaders, having talked the talk, must now ensure they walk the walk.

Scotland is prepared to do just that. I'm proud to lead the Scottish Government delegation, along with our climate change minister, speaking with international counterparts and pushing collectively for real, radical action on climate change.

Scotland is a small country making a big difference on this global challenge and I've been pleased to see our environmental campaigners, from NGOs to churches, also ensuring the call for action is heard loud and clear in Copenhagen.

They, like us, are highlighting that Scotland has not only set world-leading emission reduction targets for 2020 and 2050, but also set out a clear framework to deliver these and our other ambitious aims.

Our carbon assessment of the 2010-11 budget provides a lead to other governments looking to Scotland as a model of international best practice, while we are also one of very few countries to adopt a strategic approach to adaptation.

The approach of the Climate Change Adaptation Framework I published last week could be adopted by other countries and this is one area of co-operation we will be examining through our Partnership Agreement with the Maldives.

The Maldives is, of course, one of the nations most exposed to the damaging consequences of the wider world's failure, to date, to tackle and mitigate climate change effectively. Earlier this month I met the European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU commissioner for energy Andris Piebalgs, to discuss how Scotland's energy potential can enhance European energy security and global efforts to tackle climate change.

Last night we were able to discuss our carbon reduction efforts with other European energy ministers at a Scottish Low Carbon Mission event. And today I will address the opening commitment session of the 2009 Climate Leaders Summit.

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Scotland is well on track to meet our targets of generating 31 per cent of electricity demand through renewables by 2011 and 50 per cent by 2020. And I've been determined to drive forward the clean, green energy agenda in our discussions.

Scotland has taken great strides over the past year to meet the climate change challenge and our renewables ambitions – from the launch of the 10 million Saltire Prize last December to the convening of the high-level 2020 Group led by SSE's Ian Marchant last week.

It is of course disappointing that the Westminster government did not agree to the commonsense approach which could have seen Scotland as part of the formal UK delegation in Copenhagen. But that will not prevent Scotland's voice being heard loud and clear on the world stage.

For the future of the planet, it is vital that not only do world leaders know of Scotland's ambitions, but that they also seize the moment and pursue them.

Alex Salmond is First Minister