Scotland takes a lead on climate change

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The stakes really could not be higher as international leaders meet in Paris this week to agree a new, legally binding climate change agreement aimed at limiting the global temperature increase to less than 2C. Our future, and that of generations to come, depends on a successful outcome.

Scotland is already punching above its weight in the international effort. Our world-leading targets for reducing emissions – aiming to cut greenhouse gases by 42 per cent by 2020 – set the benchmark the international community needs to match in the years ahead.

Scotland is also showing the way by putting people and human rights at the heart of our action on climate change and in supporting fair and sustainable global development.

This country is now more than three-quarters of the way towards achieving our 42 per cent target in 2020. Between 1990 and 2012, we outperformed the UK as a whole and the European Union average for emissions reductions.

The Scottish Government has put in place a comprehensive package of measures to meet our world-leading emission reductions targets, backed by almost £1 billion of funding. Our cabinet sub-committee on climate change underpins our commitment and through our rural affairs, food and the environment delivery board, we are leading and co-ordinating action on climate change by our public sector partners, including on peatland restoration and forestry, to protect and conserve the environment.

Our actions have been praised as a “shining example” by the head of the United Nations climate body, Christiana Figueres. Such praise is welcome, but we are not complacent. We all need to do more to secure effective progress – both here in Scotland and across the world.

It is more than 20 years since international governments first agreed joint action on climate change, but emissions have still increased. Bolder international action is essential – and Scotland can help show the way.

l Dr Aileen McLeod MSP is the Scottish Government’s climate change minister