PLANS are under way to boost Scotland's role within the United Nations after the country was showered with praise by the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.

In a personal letter to First Minister Alex Salmond, Ban said he was delighted by the Scottish Government's "deep commitment" to sustainable energy, adding that he was pleased the government wanted to work with the UN to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy for all.

"With an abundance of natural resources paired with ambitious renewable targets, Scotland is in an excellent position to play a leading role in our common efforts to find lasting sustainable solutions to the world's pressing energy challenges," wrote Ban.

Addressing Salmond as "his excellency", Ban invited the First Minister's office to liaise with UN officials "on ways to deepen the engagement of your government with the efforts of the United Nations".

The UN-Scotland love-in follows a meeting between Salmond and Ban in January at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. Salmond has now written to UN officials to begin the process of closer cooperation on energy policy.

"I am committed to ensuring Scotland plays its part in the collective efforts of the UN, business and government around the world to bring about improved standards of sustainable energy for all peoples and for the good of our environment," Salmond told Ban.

The unveiling of Scotland's bigger role in the UN comes on the eve of a major UN summit on sustainable development in the Brazilian capital next week. Known as "Rio+20", as it is taking place 20 years after a historic earth summit in the same city 20 years ago, it is an attempt to shift the world towards a more environmentally-friendly form of economic development.

Scotland will be represented in Rio by its environment and climate change minister, Stewart Stevenson. He will attend a series of events pledging the Scottish Government's support for sustainable energy, energy equality and climate justice.

"Scotland has a valuable contribution to make – that is the message I will take to Rio and I look forward to a deeper partnership with the UN as we work together for an equitable and sustainable future," Stevenson said.

Last month, Scottish ministers launched a £3 million climate justice fund to help poorer countries cope with floods and droughts caused by climate change. The initiative won praise from Mary Robinson, the former Irish President and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as environmental, development and faith groups.

"Developed countries have a moral obligation to help developing countries tackle climate change and energy inequality," argued Stevenson. "Scotland is already doing what it can, and our recently launched climate justice fund has received overwhelming support from Scottish civic society."

The Scottish Government this weekend also announced £4m worth of funding to help communities in Tanzania, Zambia and Rwanda combat problems caused by climate change. Support is being given to projects run by three charities: Oxfam, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund and Tearfund.

"Scotland is well aware of its responsibilities to the wider world and we know that it is some of the world's most vulnerable people in sub-Saharan Africa that are dealing with the harsh realities of climate change," said Stevenson.