SO one of the largest international gatherings seen in these islands has come to a conclusion in Glasgow. Delegates from across the world met, spoke, argued and negotiated in one of Scotland’s finest cities. And despite all the challenges and hurdles, the queues and protests, the First Minister succeeded in delivering Irn-Bru to our American friends.

Joking aside, this was a serious summit that required serious commitments. Climate change is no longer an abstract distant threat but an ever-present, ever-increasing danger. The Glasgow Climate Pact, whilst not perfect, is better than what was perhaps feared would be the result a month or so ago.

The chief goal of Glasgow was to “keep 1.5 alive” following the 2015 Paris Agreement. For those unaware, this represents the maximum level of global warming that the nations of the world are committed to containing. Given the planet has already warmed by 1.1 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels, time is running short to prevent runaway climate change of 2, 3 or, heaven-forbid, 4 degrees warming.

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The commitments produced from COP26 do not enable this on their own. Indeed, under current plans, warming is still projected to rise between 1.8 to 2.4 degrees. However, dig beneath the headlines and there are grounds for cautious optimism.

A landmark agreement on ending and reversing deforestation by 2030 included 130 countries covering 90% of the world’s forests backed by £14 billion of public and private funds.

Nearly two years ago, only 30% of the world was covered by net-zero targets. This figure is now at around 90%. Over the same period, 154 parties have submitted new national targets, representing 80% of global emissions. 

The most vulnerable countries to climate change secured a promise from the developed nations to receive double the amount of funding for adaptation finance by 2025, with a new goal by 2024 to replace the $100bn annual commitment previously promised.

The US and China surprised everyone with a joint statement to work together on tackling climate change. As tensions between the two grow colder whilst the planet grows hotter, this was an especially welcome development.

Finally, after 25 previous COPs, “fossil fuels” and “coal” were mentioned for the first time in a UN climate agreement. It was a missed opportunity though that the commitment to “phase out” coal was watered down to “phase down” at the eleventh hour by China and India. The fact it has taken the world until now to include “fossil fuels” in a UN climate agreement is a damning statement in itself.

This last point perhaps encapsulates the feeling of the summit’s outcome as a whole. Better than expected but leaving much more to be desired.

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Who knows whether if COP was being held in an independent Scotland rather than the UK we would have got a Glasgow Agreement. Yet seeing the behaviour of Sturgeon and Johnson gives a pretty good idea of what might have happened. Our First Minister performed the role of host to the world impeccably, meeting delegates, engaging with climate protestors and cajoling others to match Scotland’s ambition in tackling climate change.

In contrast, the over-promoted chancer that is the PM predictably made the conference all about himself – that is, whenever he did bother to show up. His contributions displayed bizarre football analogies that would confuse even the most die-hard fan. He insisted the UK was not a corrupt country in a week dominated by Tory sleaze. Then he displayed his outstanding geography knowledge by stating that COP had taken place in, uh, Edinburgh. British statesmanship at its most incompetent.

With the eyes of the world on Scotland, our First Minister demonstrated what real-world diplomacy looks like. Certain characters may look on in incredulity that Sturgeon was taking photos with President Biden, presenting US climate envoy John Kerry with a Forbes tartan tie or handing US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a bottle of Irn-Bru. Yet it only goes to show their lack of experience in diplomatic matters.

The whole point of summits like these is to build networks, build relationships and build solutions to mutual problems. Climate change can only be resolved with global partnerships and solid, multilateral commitments – that is exactly what the First Minister was helping to do.

It was only right then that the Scottish Government led by example. Scotland is not immune from the threats of climate change. Communities across Scotland all face substantial risks from threats such as flash flooding and coastal erosion. Key industries including fisheries and agriculture all face climate challenges from changing weather patterns and rising sea temperatures. These changes are all being observed now and are only likely to worsen if we do not take decisive action.

Such action is exactly what we are taking. Scotland was amongst the first countries to declare a climate emergency. The Scottish Government is committed to delivering the ambitious target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2045 with an ambitious interim target of a 75% reduction by 2030.

Last year the equivalent of 96% of gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources and by the end of 2021, the Scottish Government will have allocated over £1bn since 2009 to tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency. During COP, the Scottish Government announced that it will increase its funding for climate justice by a further 50% to help vulnerable or developing countries meet the challenges of adapting to climate change.

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At home, we are supporting the work of the Just Transition Commission, whose innovative ideas I highlighted a few weeks ago in this paper. Change must come, but we cannot inflict on communities the industrial mistakes of the past, which saw whole areas of Scotland economically and socially devastated for generations.

Based on the past two weeks alone, it is clear that the best way to achieve a fairer, greener and more sustainable Scotland is independence in Europe. The final agreement is not perfect and people who want to find faults will do so. There is still plenty to do but some nuts-and-bolts progress is to be welcomed.

At a time when the UK Government showed lacklustre leadership, Glasgow and the First Minister showed the world that Scotland is ready to play its part as a constructive, independent partner on the international stage. When independence comes, the Scottish soft power on display at Glasgow will go a long way towards making friends and allies around the world.