BLOG: COP26 must not be a cop-out

BLOG: COP26 must not be a cop-out

BLOG: COP26 must not be a cop-out

The year 2021 is a vital year for action on climate change. At the time of publication, Scotland and Glasgow will be in the international spotlight as the UK Government hosts the most important global climate change conference to date. Six years ago, the Paris Agreement agreed the goal of limiting the total increase in the Earth’s temperature to 1.5C. As the Prime Minister has said, COP26 needs to be a “turning point for humanity”, the point at which we pull together to keep 1.5 °C in reach.

The Glasgow conference signals the start of the United Kingdom’s COP26 presidency. The world will be watching and expecting real progress during these initial two weeks. Even if that is achieved, the hard work of implementing policies to reach these targets will then need to begin in earnest. That requires real co-operation between the UK and Scottish Governments, and also local authorities who have a vital role to play in driving the net zero agenda at a local level.

At Holyrood, I chair the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee which has been established to scrutinise the Scottish Government’s policies and implementation of plans to reach net zero in Scotland by 2045 and effectively manage the warming already taking place.

One of the main responsibilities of the Net Zero Committee is to hold the Scottish government to account in reaching its own climate change targets.  Just last week, Nicola Sturgeon had to  admit to the implementation of a ‘catch-up plan’ after Scotland had been shown to have missed its last three annual climate change targets. In addition, renewable heat targets have not been met and we are falling well behind in meeting recycling rate targets.

Hosting COP26 gives the UK a huge opportunity to showcase our world-leading climate credentials and set an example to other countries to raise their own ambitions. The UK Government’s new Net Zero strategy has been praised by the Climate Change Committee which called it ‘’an ambitious and comprehensive strategy that marks a significant step forward for UK climate policy, setting a globally leading benchmark to take to COP26’’. The truth is that dealing with the climate emergency is just too important to be over-shadowed by the SNP’s obsession with driving a wedge between the coordinated effort needed across the whole of the United Kingdom, and the world, to tackle the crisis.

As well as COP26 the equally important, but less well known, COP15 Biodiversity Summit is taking place early next year. The loss of our species and ecosystems is accelerating at an unsustainable rate. Again, the United Kingdom Government has been at the forefront in pushing for ambitious targets and the commitment to meet them. In Scotland, one in nine species is threatened with extinction. Scottish Conservatives want an ambitious ‘Nature Bill’ introduced to the Scottish Parliament that will address this alarming decline.

Stirling Council, along with the other Local Authorities in Scotland, has produced its own Climate and Nature Action Plan.  Councils themselves are typically directly responsible for around only 2-3% of the emissions in their area. It is therefore vital that councils take bold actions to address emissions in policy areas in which they have responsibility and power.

For example, Councils should be prepared to make radical changes to their planning, local transport and other policies in order to achieve the wider reduction in emissions required across Scotland.

A prime example of this would be for the SNP administration at Stirling Council to reverse their cuts to bin collections. This change in bin collections will only undermine the Council’s own climate plan now that our recycling bins are only to be collected monthly.