The year-long delay to the opening of COP26 has given extra urgency to the world’s attempts to halt the rise in CO2 levels and turn down the heat on global warming.

The challenges ahead are significant and will take collaboration between nations if ambitious goals to decarbonise society are to be met.

Yet in every difficulty lies the germ of opportunity and on 26 October key figures from more than 20 different organisations will be taking part in a special one-day, online conference, hosted by The Herald, which will explore the potential of a net zero carbon transition to create a healthier, wealthier and more equal society.

As part of ‘Scotland’s Contribution to COP26: a joined-up Just Transition’, speakers from science, technology, government and other sectors will examine not only the speed and scale at which Scotland must move if it is to tackle the climate emergency, but also to spell just how important it is that, as society reshapes to meet the challenge, that no-one is left behind.

The conference will look at important themes such as skills, circular economy, empowering young people, improving health outcomes and delivering sustainable economic growth to the Scottish economy.

Amongst the organisations supporting the conference is CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre that specialises in sensing, imaging and the Internet of Things.

HeraldScotland: Paul Winstanley, CEO of CENSISPaul Winstanley, CEO of CENSIS

Paul Winstanley, CEO of CENSIS is an entrepreneurial technologist with a wide-ranging background that includes defence, security, government, SMEs and international PLCs and he is optimistic that if tackled correctly, then the measures that we take move to a low CO2 economy can will have a positive impact on society as a whole.

He says: “At the moment there is a gap in understanding between policy and practice and that has to change, but one of the reasons for holding the Herald conference is to make this issue more accessible.”

Already, he says, there are good examples of how acting in the interests of the environment have a positive impact on individuals.

“When you look at how new housing is being built in order to reduce CO2 emissions, you are also seeing a picture of how lowering energy costs for occupiers can help to tackle fuel poverty.”

Active travel schemes, which encourage the use of walking and cycling over cars, will help to clean up our cities, while our oil and gas workforce has transferable skills that can be used to make Scotland a world-leader in new technologies.

Retraining of our existing workforce, alongside education and targeted apprenticeships for school leavers, will be needed in order to provide the skills to fulfil the new employment opportunities that are already emerging  in the low-carbon sector, but the results will be hugely beneficial to individuals, society and to the environment.

“We will have to accept that some things, such as taking international flights will come at a higher cost, but alongside this there are many positive developments that will come out of our transition to a low carbon economy.”

In all of this, he say, young people must have a voice.

“They have to be listened to an empowered to make the changes that will benefit all of us.”

Recent shifts in weather patterns have underlined the growing risks of climate change but while we face up to the dangers we shouldn’t ignore the potential for measures to reduce CO2 levels to bring about positive benefits for society.

“We have to recognise that we have the opportunity in tackling the climate crisis to improve the living standards and health of Scotland and to grow the economy by that in making this transition we must leave no sectors of our society behind.”

All these themes will be up for discussion during The Herald’s free conference and for details of how you can be part of ‘Scotland’s Contribution to COP26: a joined-up Just Transition’ visit the dedicated event website.