Scotland will play our full part in tackling the climate emergency

We’ve likely all noticed the unusually mild autumn we’ve been experiencing recently. In fact, some days in October have felt more like summer.

While these warm conditions are certainly unusual in Scotland, scientists are warning that they are going to become more and more common as the years go on and as climate change progresses.

Three months ago, the UK experienced its hottest day on record. Records were similarly broken in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands as an extreme heatwave swept across much of Europe.

Across the world, there is a real concern that the heatwaves we are experiencing more and more often are a direct consequence of the climate crisis, and the indisputable fact that our planet is getting hotter.

The need to act to combat climate change has never been more urgent.

Last weekend, I travelled to Egypt for the UN Climate Change Summit, COP27, which marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In those thirty years, the world has come a long way in the fight against climate change and its negative impacts on our planet.

We are now able to better understand the science behind climate change, assess its impacts, and develop tools to address its causes and consequences.

But despite that, the situation is graver than ever.

Most of us in Glasgow will remember the COP26 summit taking place in our city last year – with world leaders, scientists, and activists coming together for negotiations to agree meaningful actions to tackle the climate crisis.

Glasgow proudly hosted that summit, and while it did deliver positive progress, there is no escaping the fact that COP26 did not deliver as much concrete action or financial commitments as global south countries, activists and campaigners rightly demanded.

I attended COP27 to do what I can to further collaboration between Scotland and other countries, to build on the agreements that were reached in Glasgow and to continue Scotland’s leadership on tackling the climate emergency, especially on the important issue of loss and damage.

COP27 is taking place against a tense and difficult global backdrop and there is no doubt that the geopolitical landscape has changed significantly in the last year.

The impacts of climate change are being increasingly felt – with, for example, flooding in Pakistan and wildfires across the USA.

At the same time, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is forcing countries, particularly in Europe, to rethink long-held assumptions about energy policy and energy security.

However, that does not mean that we can row back on the commitments made in Glasgow.

In fact, it’s more important than ever that we act, and soon, because the answer to many global challenges lies in tackling climate change and nature loss at a quicker pace.

The current energy crisis that is putting so much stress on households and businesses in Scotland is ultimately caused by our dependence on fossil fuels.

The solution is ending this dependence – through a just transition to renewables and energy efficiency.

While some governments, including the UK government, seek to increase their extraction of fossil fuels in response to soaring energy prices, the Scottish Government remains committed to developing our vast renewable energy potential and emerging green technologies.

And Scotland will continue play its part by sharing our own experiences of delivering a net zero target at home, as part of our just transition, and by helping to amplify the voices of people who are being most impacted by climate change but are often also excluded from the debate – including people from the countries of the global south, women and young people.

No nation has all the answers, or the means, to respond alone to the scale of the problem of climate change.

This is why bringing the global community together at COP27 is so vital, as it is only by working together that can we meet the need and urgency of the task that lies ahead.

COP27 must put a renewed focus on the ongoing delivery of the commitments already made in Glasgow and seek agreement for more meaningful action.

The science is clear that we may be approaching a tipping point for the twin crises of nature and climate – with the International Panel on Climate Change warning in April that it is “now or never” to limit global warming.

Unless we act now, we will continue to see an increase in heatwaves, floods, catastrophic storms and water scarcity – a price our planet simply cannot afford to pay.

However, is not too late for governments to act and to take positive actions which will help – including further funding to address loss and damage to help those in countries who contribute the least to global warming, yet suffer the worst effects.

Bluntly, we owe it to future generations to act now.

If the world is to deliver on the Glasgow climate pact, all nations need to continue to increase their ambition and take credible action to reach net zero emissions.

I am determined that Scotland will play our full part.