Lorna Slater on COP26: ‘The overall package did not go anywhere near far enough’

Wednesday November 17th 2021


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.

The COP 26 climate conference brought 25,000 people to Scotland. Activists and campaigners took to the streets while world leaders came together to shape our future. But did it live up to the lofty ambitions that it set?

The negotiations led to some welcome changes, such as a pledge to end deforestation by 2030 and reduce the use of coal and methane. But the overall package did not go anywhere near far enough.

COP had been branded ‘our last best chance’. But, when push came to shove, world leaders backed off. Unless the agreement is improved, it will not keep our temperature rise within the 1.5 degrees that we are supposed to be bound by.

It was a disappointing conclusion to such a vitally important event. But it doesn’t mean we’re done. It means that we must work even harder and move faster. Saving our biosphere isn’t optional.

The lack of international progress cannot stop us from leading by example and making the kind of positive changes that are needed here in Scotland for our environment and our economy.

Over the course of COP the Scottish Government announced a lot of important steps that will help us to build a fairer, greener future.

We announced a £55 million nature restoration fund to tackle biodiversity loss and rewild our green spaces. My Green colleague Patrick Harvie joined the First Minister in announcing a £1 million fund for bike and wheelchair repairs.

Possibly most importantly, I was very proud to announce a ban on the worst single use plastics. Every year, hundreds of millions of pieces of single-use plastic are wasted in this country. They litter our parks and pollute our oceans. We are working to make that a thing of the past.

Next year we will be introducing free bus travel for everyone under 22. This will open Scotland and have a huge impact in communities like Midlothian where a lot of young people commute and travel between towns and into Edinburgh.

We are also in the process of delivering a national deposit return scheme. It’s an important and timely step that will boost recycling and make Scotland the first part of the UK to introduce a national deposit return scheme for drinks containers.

We didn’t commit to delivering these changes because of an international agreement. We committed to them because they are the right things to do.

They are big changes. And we’re only getting started. Over the course of this parliament Scotland will be making the kind of big jumps that all governments need to make. The failure of COP cannot be an excuse for inaction.

The Scotland we want to build is one that recognises and lives up to the scale of the climate crisis we are facing. It is one that takes its responsibilities seriously and has equality at its heart.

Events like COP are hugely important, but they are not an end in themselves. We cannot let the disappointment we feel now stop us from realising our ambitions and hitting our targets. Over the years ahead, with Greens in government, Scotland will show the kind of leadership that we need to see from leaders around the world.

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