For the last couple of weeks, Scotland has pretty much been at the centre of the world.
The COP26 conference on climate change was billed as the most important international gathering this century – and for good reason.
No longer can anyone pretend that the climate catastrophe is some abstract event, set to hit future generations in a distant decade.
You only have to see the increasing numbers of severe weather events around the world to know that the climate, and the planet, is changing rapidly.
Among the estimated 20,000 people to have descended on Scotland were leaders from more than 100 countries.
And in case they were not already clear that they needed to go further and faster to avoid a climate catastrophe, the huge numbers taking part in demonstrations and making their voices heard certainly hammered home the message.
Scotland may have decarbonised faster than any G20 nation, but the fact is that the Scottish government have still fallen short of their ambitious targets in recent years, and need to step up their efforts.
All governments need to do more in the fight against the climate crisis, including Scotland. And although we are not at the top table of these negotiations, the Scottish Government has used the opportunity of having the world on our doorstep to make a positive contribution and show leadership where we can.
The First Minister was very keen that the voice of youth was heard throughout COP26 and beyond. After all, the younger generation stands to lose the most from the damage we are doing now to our planet.
The Scottish Government funded the Youth COP summit, the Conference of Youth, which brought together more than 400 young people to draw up demands of world leaders.
It has traditionally been funded by the host nation, but the UK Government declined to do so – but Scotland was glad to receive their suggestions and demands, and remain committed to doing all they can to realise them.
Nicola Sturgeon has met climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate at COP26 summit. pic.twitter.com/sONE6awEJY
— STV News (@STVNews) November 1, 2021
The First Minister also met with inspiring young climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate as the conference got underway. Both of these young women have helped generate a global youth protest movement that has put the climate emergency at the top of the agenda – and we saw that during the Fridays for Future march through Glasgow.
The importance of women and girls’ leadership on climate change cannot be understated, and it is vital that young activists like Vanessa and Greta continue to make their voices heard, as loudly and clearly as possible.
Another area where Scotland can – and is – making a difference is on Climate Justice.
Like many counties and developed nations, Scotland has a rich industrial past. For a long time, Scotland have enjoyed the benefits of climate emissions that are causing climate change.
Scotland now has a moral obligation to help poorer nations, who contributed the least to climate change but are now suffering the worst from its effects.
Important meeting today with faith leaders from the Global South – developed countries must understand the severe human impact of climate change that many are already experiencing & act with urgency. Loss & damage is no abstract concept – it’s about lives and livelihoods #COP26 https://t.co/TmOzzz8GiX
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 8, 2021
Scotland’s Climate Justice fund supports the poorest nations adapt to the effects of climate change – such as tackling water scarcity, adapting farming practice, planting trees and much more.
This fund was the first of its kind in the world and the SNP are now also committed to funding projects to help vulnerable countries repair the loss and damage they are already suffering.
The fund is, in a global sense, relatively small, but the Scottish Government have recently taken the decision to double it – and are doing everything they can to push other nations to do more in this area.
And although Scotland is not directly involved in the negotiations, the Scottish Government will continue to act as a bridge for those who are often excluded from the ‘top table’ and those who lead the talks.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 9, 2021
There have also been significant new agreements on climate finance – the process of funding poorer nations to take steps to reduce their own emissions.
However, it is difficult to celebrate this too much when these nations are still waiting for the $100bn in climate funding they were promised back in 2009.
Climate change is the defining challenge of our age – fixing it may seem like an overwhelming task, but Scotland has no choice. Failure is not an option.