Scotland leads by example on climate crisis

This summer we've seen fires destroying large swathes of the Amazon rainforest and extreme weather events across Europe; lives lost and entire communities destroyed, often in the poorest and most vulnerable countries. The science leaves no room for doubt: these events represent the realities of climate change - the single most urgent challenge the world faces. 

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First published in The National (print edition), 21 September 2019

It is a challenge to which we all must rise, but the clock is ticking. We can no longer postpone. We are already beyond the point at which action is needed.Yesterday, thousands of young people took to the streets across Scotland in protest – I was proud to join the Glasgow march.

Our young people are rightly frustrated at the lack of progress politicians are making to meet the commitments of of the Paris Agreement.

Today, in the EU there is an ever-widening gap between the stated ambition of climate change action and the realities of public policy. That gap has to be closed, and it has to be closed quickly.

On Monday, world leaders will gather in New York for the UN Climate Action Summit, called as a first step towards closing this gap. I’ll be attending that summit as part of the delegation from the European Parliament.

The UN has asked leaders to come with a “concrete and realistic” plan to achieve two critical objectives: proposals for new actions aimed at dramatically reducing emissions over the next decade, and a strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, as set out in the Paris Agreement. This is the central aim of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5C. The summit in New York is also an important platform to build momentum towards the international climate change conference, COP25, taking place in Chile in December.

While we should not expect next week’s conference to be as big a milestone as the Paris Summit, it remains highly significant to ensure leaders publicly recommit to implementing progressive policies.

It is now four years since the Paris Agreement and the hard reality is that the progress made to date has been disappointing.

I have a packed programme of meetings with UN officials, governments, international organisations and NGOs to scrutinise the actions and pledges of the summit and to ensure that the EU and the global community step up to the plate. As one of Scotland’s MEPs I will be taking a very strong message to the summit that the EU must take bolder actions if we are to get on track to meet the 1.5C goal. That is what is expected of us and that is what we must deliver.

I will also be taking to New York, as I have taken to Brussels, lessons from Scotland – ensuring Scotland’s voice on climate change is heard.

The Scottish Government is leading by example and Scotland is rightly recognised as aworld leader in tackling climate change.

In April, Nicola Sturgeon declared a climate emergency and launched Scotland on the path to bold and meaningful action that will completely end our contribution to climate change within a generation.

Scotland is now redefining what world leadership means. Our response to the global emergency and a Green New Deal for Scotland was at the heart of the new Programme for Government announced earlier this month.

Our ambitious target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 – one of the toughest statutory targets in the world – is set out in the Scottish Government’s new Climate Change Bill, which will be debated next week in Holyrood. But Scotland’s transition to a net-zero society requires collaboration with everyone working together to ensure we can seize the opportunities and that no-one is left behind.

Next year, Glasgow will host COP26, and Scotland will become the centre of the conversation on climate change.

If we are to meet the challenges of the global climate crisis, we need more international co-operation, not less. EU membership offers Scotland an international framework within which to pursue our ambitions but Brexit puts it in jeopardy. Serving as yet another example of why it is essential that Scotland takes its place on the global stage as an independent European nation.