Guest blog from Paris climate talks: Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP

  • 07 Dec 2015
  • General News, International, Blog
This summer, the Scottish Government became one of the first governments anywhere in the world to announce we would sign up to the sustainable development goals. As part of that, we promised to take urgent action to tackle climate change, and to help developing countries to grow in a fair and sustainable manner.

I want to set out some of the ways in which the Scottish government is doing that – how we are promoting rights and justice in relation to climate change.

And I want to begin by explaining why we are doing it.

The 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel set out many of the consequences of climate change. Heavy rainfall and floods will become more intense and frequent in many regions. Heat waves will occur more often and last longer. That in turn increases the risk of drought and crop failure.

The IPCC also made it clear that the people most affected by these changes are often the very young, the very old, the ill, and the very poor.  Women are suffering disproportionately, since they are often the main providers of food, fuel and water.

So, the people who have done least to cause climate change, and are least equipped to cope with its consequences, are the people who are being hit hardest. The scale of the injustice is massive.

Now, the first and most important priority has to be to address climate change itself. That’s why Scotland backs the case for an ambitious agreement at this summit – one which is capable of limiting temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius.

We’re determined to lead by example. In 2009 the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed world leading climate change legislation. Using 1990 as a baseline, we committed ourselves to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 42% by 2020 – and at least 80% by 2050. Those are amongst the most ambitious statutory targets anywhere in the world. We are well on course to meet them.

We already produce almost exactly half of our gross electricity demand from renewable sources, and aim to decarbonise our electricity generation completely by 2030. And we are supporting innovation in some of the key technologies the world will need in the future – for example we are world leaders in wave and tidal power.

But as well as taking action to limit global warming in the future, we also need to acknowledge that climate change is happening now. Its consequences are already being felt, and –as I mentioned earlier – they are being felt most severely by those who are already most disadvantaged.

That’s one reason why Scotland is committed, through our National Action Plan on Human Rights, to champion climate justice.

In 2012 we became the first national government in the world to establish a climate justice fund. It currently supports 11 projects in 4 sub-Saharan African countries.

In Malawi, for example, around 30,000 people now have access to clean drinking water and over 100 committees have been trained in natural resources rights and management. That means that in future, local communities are better able to manage their own resources. We’ve been especially active in training and empowering women to ensure that they can play a leadership role.

In 2012, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, invited us to join his Sustainable Energy for All initiative. That was a recognition of Scotland’s leadership on renewable energy, climate change and climate justice. This summer, Christina Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also praised our work.

In the last three years, investment in community-led renewable energy programmes in Malawi has brought better access to electricity for 80,000 people. We’re also currently backing a project – Scotland Lights Up Malawi – which aims to eradicate the use of kerosene lamps by 2020. Kerosene is often a poor source of light, which emits toxic smoke and costs almost a sixth of families’ income. So we’re working to replace it – for example through the wider use of solar-powered lamps.

But we know that we need to do more. I have confirmed in discussion with Mary Robinson, the head of the Mary Robinson climate justice Foundation, that Scotland would increase the size of its climate justice fund. We’re allocating a further £12 million over the next 4 years. It’s still a relatively small step in terms of the overall scale of the problem, but it’s an important statement from a country which is determined to do the right thing.

It demonstrates that we share the simple, but profound, conviction set out by Pope Francis in his Encyclical on Climate Change – “that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”

The final point I want to make isn’t about what Scotland is doing, but how we are doing it.

One of the major strengths of our climate justice and international development work is that we act in partnership with governments and especially with third sector organisations. In Malawi, for example, our development funding achieves a disproportionate impact, specifically because it is backed by a network of individuals, schools, universities, colleges, faith groups and non-governmental organisations.

In all of the work Scotland is doing – in supporting and meeting strict climate change targets; in developing new technologies; in promoting climate justice – we want to work closely with governments, businesses and organisations from around the world. We are confident that we have a lot to offer to the rest of the world – but we also know that we have a huge amount to learn.

COP21 is an important part of that collaboration process. As we work to tackle climate change and promote climate justice, co-operation – between governments of different nations, and between governments and NGOs – will become ever more important.