The National:

WITH just under six months left to go before the COP26 summit in Glasgow, the G7 leaders have announced their agreement to phase out overseas investment in coal projects.

This landmark statement comes in the wake of two other interventions in the past month on the future of coal and divesting from fossil fuel industries on the pathway to net-zero.

During a visit to Scotland this May, the UK Government's COP26 president, Alok Sharma, announced loud and clear that all nations across the globe must “consign coal to history”.

Sharma added: “If we are serious about [limiting global warming to] 1.5C ... we have to accelerate the shift to clean energy" by addressing international coal financing as well as power projects.

Sharma said it was his “personal priority” to seize this moment for change; he mentioned his daughters and future generations and how “there are no second chances”.

He should direct some of this passion towards his Cabinet colleagues.

READ MORE: Scotland leads UK in renewables with two energy sites every square mile

The Tory Cabinet shows no intention of preventing new fossil fuel projects at home, i.e. the Cumbrian coalmine conundrum, shuffled off for a planning review rather than shelved.

As host of COP26, Sharma (below) faces an uphill struggle to convince other nations to up their climate game if his own government can’t be bothered.

The National: Business Secretary Alok Sharma

Secondly, the International Energy Agency stepped into the ring this past week, recommending that all coal, oil and gas exploration should cease this year in order to avert global warming.

This coming from an agency set up in the 1970s as an oil industry watchdog and traditionally viewed as pro-fossil fuels is quite a milestone, as well as a major reality check.

The report concluded that the pathway to net-zero by 2050 is “narrow” and will only be achieved by a substantial reduction in the use of fossil fuels, combined with innovation in new technologies and adoption of clean initiatives like electric cars.

The IEA report recognises that decarbonisation on the scale needed to reach net-zero is “perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced”, requiring eye-watering sums of investment in clean tech, some $5 trillion by 2030.

The Agency’s executive director, Fatih Birol, believes it will be “worth it” not just to save our beautiful planet, but also in terms of the creation of well-paid, highly skilled jobs, health benefits and better global economic growth across high, middle and low-income countries.

READ MORE: Greens back small-scale renewable energy projects owned by local communities

These benefits can only be achieved with a firm focus on another climate buzz phrase: the "Just Transition".

Yes, we need to take radical decisions on how and where we source our energy supplies that drastically reduce carbon emissions, but we cannot and must not make the same mistakes of the past; workers in changing industries were left behind and disregarded, despite their skills and expertise.

Inclusion in this sense means bringing everyone on board to maximise opportunity and job security in this fast paced and revolutionary new world of work.

The Scottish Government has placed the Just Transition as one of its key components for COP26, pledging to enact the recommendations of the independent Just Transition Commission (JTC), which has examined the fundamental transformation required in order to reach net-zero in Scotland.

Jim Skea, the JTC chair, has acknowledged that this will be a “collective national endeavour” with social justice at its heart, bringing business, trade unions and civic society together to share the benefits of climate action.

This will involve a “skills guarantee” for the fossil fuel industry so we don’t lose these experienced people or their unique talents, as well as developing more flexible skills and an education system to bring in new workers to this field.

In addition, we must support existing and new SME’s and businesses to cope with the double whammy of the pandemic and net-zero change. The innovations they create will be the economic drivers of the future and wealth creation in Scotland.

READ MORE: Cromarty Firth set to become major hub for hydrogen after Norwegian contract

In recognition of the importance of this endeavour, a new Minister for the Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work, Richard Lochhead, has been appointed to the Scottish Government and I look forward to reading his response on the JTC’s proposals, which are due to be published this summer.

In the meantime, the Scottish Government has also pledged to end promotion of overseas fossil fuel goods and services by COP26 in November. With 10% of Europe’s wave power, 25% of its tidal energy and 25% of Europe’s wind power potential, we are in a unique position in Scotland to facilitate this change across the energy sector by capitalising on our natural resources in a sustainable way.

How we transition out of fossil fuels into renewables, hydrogen, and bio-tech for instance must be made “by the people of Scotland, not done to the people of Scotland” to quote Jim Skea again.

This is about boldness, grasping the nettle, innovating our way out of disaster, valuing our talent and encouraging new skillsets.

As Glasgow gets ready to host the climate summit of the century, what better statement could Scotland make on our commitment to the planet?