It has been heartening to see such passion and strength of opinion being demonstrated over recent months – particularly by the next generation. We must all act now to safeguard their future.
The growing recognition of the need for urgent action is welcome, not least because we all need to take action to respond to the global climate emergency. This must be a shared, national endeavour.
Scotland is already a world leader in tackling climate change. We have already almost halved greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 while growing the economy, increasing employment and productivity.
Now we are redefining what world leadership means. Setting out our response to the global climate emergency and a Green New Deal for Scotland are at the centre of our new Programme for Government and we are clear that Scotland will end its contribution to climate change, completely, within a generation. Our ambitious target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 – one of the toughest statutory targets in the world – set out in our new Climate Change Bill will achieve this, and I look forward to Parliament debating it next week.
I need to be very clear about the significance of our transition to becoming a net-zero society. We cannot take a knee-jerk, piecemeal approach. Nor can Government do this alone. We all – governments, businesses, communities and individuals – need to work together to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change and seize the opportunities that this creates.
That is why the Scottish Government is engaging with the public, businesses, industry, and the public sector to ensure that everyone’s thoughts and ideas feed into our approach. Tackling climate change at pace requires collaboration, a mutual understanding of the route ahead, and a vigour to achieve our goals. Most of all, it means everyone being part of the solution.
It is heartening to see that the younger generation feel so passionately about climate change and we should all listen and take account of what they are telling us. We are listening to our young people – and urge governments across the world to do the same. Both the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have met with young climate strikers on a number of occasions, hearing their opinions and concerns for the future of our planet. I have heard a wide range of views from across Scotland over the course of the Big Climate Conversation workshops that have been taking place over the summer.
At the heart of our action on climate change is the wellbeing of Scotland’s people and places. Tackling climate change and ensuring we have a thriving and healthy environment is critical to our collective wellbeing and anchors our ambitions and responsibilities.
I am of course aware that some taking action today will be calling for even further action and tougher targets. We are setting an incredibly ambitious target to reduce emissions by 70% by 2030. This target has been set on the advice of our independent scientific advisors, the UK Committee on Climate Change. I have committed to updating our Climate Change Plan within six months of the Climate Change Bill receiving royal assent, ensuring that the right conditions are in place throughout the 2020s to pave the way to net-zero by 2045.
I have been consistently clear that this journey must be made with the principles of a just transition at its heart: our transition to becoming a net-zero society must leave no-one behind.
We all have a moral responsibility to tackle climate change and I wish those who are taking part in the protest today the very best.
SNP MEP Aileen McLeod will be taking Scotland’s climate message to next week’s UN Climate Action Summit in New York as part of the EU delegation.