The next two years will be a critical time for international climate action. It will soon be five years since the landmark Paris Agreement was signed, while November 2021 will see the postponed COP26 take place in Glasgow – postponed, of course, due to coronavirus.

Amid the enormous challenges of the global pandemic, the global climate emergency has not gone away – far from it – and the Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045. Indeed, I am very clear that it must be central to our recovery.

We have the opportunity to design a better future and, coming out of the pandemic, put things put back together differently. It is vital that we draw on our experience of coronavirus – the things we’ve learned about how we work, travel and live – and apply this to our approach to achieving Net Zero.

That is why we have committed to a ‘green recovery’ from Covid-19, one which captures the potential opportunities of our transition to Net Zero. That means creating green jobs, developing sustainable skills and nurturing wellbeing. It is an approach that is fundamentally important to the future prosperity of our people and planet.

But the threat of climate change is, of course, a global one, requiring a global response. Just as the response to Covid-19 has been universal, our journey to Net Zero must be the same. We must work together as we seek to build a greener, fairer and more equal society and economy.

Despite the very real and pressing issues that face the world in fighting the pandemic – or, in fact, because of them – we must ensure the whole world shares in that green economic and social recovery.

Scotland will therefore use COP26 as an opportunity not just to showcase our world-leading ambition, but also to increase international engagement in our approach – not just to reducing emissions, but to ensuring a just transition where no-one is left behind.

Our commitment to nature-based solutions to tackling climate change – including a 10-year,
£250 million peatland restoration programme – provides the perfect backdrop for these discussions. While we look forward to Glasgow hosting a successful event that helps set the world on course to Net Zero in a way that is fair and just, the delay to COP26 should not, and must not, mean a delay to collective global action on tackling climate change.

Scotland has just become European Co-Chair of the Under 2 Coalition, a group of more than 220 governments representing over 1.3 billion people and 43 per cent of the global economy. I am determined to use this position to drive international co-operation and inclusivity as well as momentum towards COP26 and beyond.

We must place inclusion at the heart of our agenda. Those least responsible for the climate emergency – including those in the global south –  face its worst impacts. Their voice has to be heard loud and clear.

We cannot do this alone. And we cannot wait to act. The time for action is now. Tackling climate change is already at the heart of Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19. This must be replicated across the world to safeguard this generation and those to come.

This article appeared in the recent Scottish Power "Countdown to Net Zero" publication which you can view online HERE