2022 was a record-breaking year, and not in a good way

Tuesday January 24th 2023


Lorna Slater, Scottish Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lothian MSP and Scottish Greens co-leader writes her monthly column for Midlothian View.

2022 was a record-breaking year, and not in a good way. All over the UK we experienced our hottest temperatures on record. It shouldn’t be like this. Yet, in total, 15 of our top 20 warmest years on record have all occurred this century.

It’s not just in the UK that we are feeling the heat. All across Europe, and around the world, we have seen soaring temperatures and extreme weather events. The wildfires and droughts that hit the continent last year may have been shocking, but they were also a sign of things to come.

They were a brutal reminder that the climate crisis is not a distant threat. It is something we are living through here and now.

It is a day to day reality for billions of people. It is the global south that is being hit hardest, with the devastating floods in Pakistan having submerged one-third of the country, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and turning millions of lives upside down.

The cameras may have gone, but the devastation it caused has not gone away, and the impact will be felt by families and communities for years to come.

2023 must be a key year in our economic and environmental transformation, both here in Scotland but also internationally. We cannot afford any more failed climate conferences or hot air.

It will need real action from every one of us, but particularly from politicians and governments.

Far too many are taking the same approach as we are seeing from Downing Street, which often talks a good game on climate change, but it is doubling down on drilling and in the process of granting over 100 new oil and gas licences.

The UK has rightly encouraged other countries to move away from coal, yet, at the same time, it has just given permission for a climate-wrecking new coal mine, the first in 30 years.

Here in Scotland we are taking a fundamentally different approach. With Scottish Greens in government, we have ended permission for new incinerators and delivered record funding for wildlife, nature and active travel infrastructure.

Last month we published bold plans to more than double our onshore wind capacity. While this week’s new draft Scottish Government’s new energy strategy is the first to commit to a presumption against new oil and gas drilling.

We are also doing vital work on biodiversity. At the COP 15 conference in Montreal I worked with representatives from other sub-national governments to ensure that our voices were heard and that meaningful commitments were being made.

Perhaps the most important contribution Scotland made to these talks was our role in the Edinburgh process, which we led on behalf of the Convention for Biological Diversity.

It has seen over 300 regions, cities and local authorities around the world signing up to the Edinburgh Declaration, which commits to transformative action to protect biodiversity and calls for an ambitious global deal for nature. This kind of international cooperation is essential.

Not all of this work is glamorous and some of it can feel slow, but they are the kind of changes that will have an impact, and that every government needs to make.

We cannot wish away climate change. We may not be able to reverse the damage that has been done through years of inaction, but we can do our best to climate-proof our economy and our world and to mitigate the impacts going forward.

Despite the late hour, we still have time to act and to introduce the green change that is needed. Every action we take now will leave a legacy. I hope that 2023 can be a key year in our transition.

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