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By Earl Russell
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Scotland’s net-zero target leads the world on climate action

4 min read

Scotland has introduced the toughest targets in the UK to ensure our actions match the scale of our climate ambitions, writes Roseanna Cunningham MSP

This was the year when the world finally woke up to the global climate emergency. Young people took to the streets in huge numbers, forcing everyone to recognise the environmental catastrophe that threatens us all.

No one can continue to dismiss the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, or the melting of the polar ice-caps. It is no longer possible to turn a blind eye to warmer temperatures, and the rising sea levels that are threatening coastal societies.

All nations, no matter how large or small, have a role to play in addressing this crisis, and I am proud to say that Scotland is not just doing its bit, but leading the way.

In April, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon formally declared a global climate emergency and, since then, the Scottish Parliament has passed a new Climate Change Act.

This includes a target to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030 – far beyond what the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is necessary to prevent warming of more than 1.5 degrees.

We have also committed to a net-zero target of all greenhouse gases by 2045, five years ahead of the rest of the UK.

Let me be clear what this means: we have pledged to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change, definitively, within a generation.

This target is at the very limit of what the UK Committee on Climate Change advised can currently be achieved. We have to be ambitious and we cannot hide away from tough decisions.

That is why, in recognition of the need to limit aviation emissions, we have decided not to proceed with a reduction in air passenger duty.

We have been clear that we will not allow licences for fracking to take place in Scotland and we have given a commitment to phase out the need for petrol and diesel cars by 2032.

All of this will be backed up by a Green New Deal – billions of pounds of investment to help deliver a net-zero future.

We have pledged to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change, definitively, within a generation

This includes more than £500m of investment in improved bus infrastructure, the world’s first zero emissions aviation region in the Highlands and Islands, and plans to decarbonise the railways by 2035.

Scotland is already contributing more than its projected share of UK tree-planting targets, with 22 million planted in 2018-19. We want to do more, so we are increasing our target to 30 million trees by 2024-25.

There is no doubt that our net-zero journey will take national endeavour. All of us – governments, business, industry and individuals – must do our bit to end our contribution to climate change.

However, as we make the necessary changes it is important that no one gets forgotten or left behind.

That is why we established an independent Just Transition Commission, which has been travelling the country since the start of the year, hearing the views of community groups, industry bodies, businesses and trade unions.

I am hugely proud that Glasgow has been chosen as the host city for the UN’s 26th climate change conference in November 2020. As the venue for COP26, I am certain the city will do an excellent job in welcoming the world.

Given Glasgow’s ambitions to address climate change, and experience in hosting major global events, there is no more fitting location. The Scottish Government is looking forward to working with the UN, UK Government, Glasgow City Council and people across Scotland to help deliver a hugely successful event.

With Scotland, the cradle of the industrial revolution, now leading the way on the innovation we need to deliver the zero carbon economy, we believe COP26 can be the catalyst that is needed for real, transformative action.

It is only by working together that we will achieve the level of change required to successfully address the climate crisis. COP26 will be crucial to help secure the action we need.

Roseanna Cunningham is Scottish Government cabinet secretary for environment, climate change and land reform

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