The Scottish Government has been urged to show “much-need global leadership” at COP28 and harness its work on loss and damage into efforts to tackle ecocide.

The appeal comes after delegates unexpectedly agreed to set up a global loss and damage fund on the first day of COP28 in Dubai, with at least $400m pledged so far.

SNP Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan has suggested she will discuss plans to outlaw ecocide in Scotland with international counterparts at COP28 amid speculation the Scottish Government could back proposals for Scotland from a Labour MSP.

Stop Ecocide International is attending COP28 to push the “pressing need for an internationally recognised crime of ecocide”, which the organisation insists is “an essential tool in the fight to mitigate climate breakdown”.

Read more: SNP Government could back ecocide plans to 'keep pace' with EU rules

Pressure is likely to be put on Ms McAllan and Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf to reach out to the group and discuss the plans at COP28.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon has tabled initial plans to make ecocide a specific crime in Scotland, with a jail term of up to 20 years proposed for those who are guilty of wilfully wrecking the environment.

As previously reported by The Herald, the European Union has agreed an update to the bloc’s directive on environmental crime, which will levy harsher penalties for ecosystem destruction.

Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Lennon asked Ms McAllan, who will take part in the COP28 climate summit, whether she would back the plans – given the Scottish Government has a policy to “keep pace” with EU law under Holyrood’s Continuity Act.

Ms Lennon said: “Now that the European Union has decided to criminalise offences comparable to ecocide, will the Scottish Government take the opportunity at COP28 to meet with the governments and campaigners who are advancing ecocide law, in light of the government’s commitment to maintaining alignment with the EU on environmental protection.”

In response, Ms McAllan insisted that the Scottish Government is “ absolutely committed to protecting Scotland’s environment”.

She added: “Monica Lennon is right to recognise the progress at EU level.

The Herald: Mairi McAllanMairi McAllan (Image: PA)

“We will assess the final EU revised environmental crime directive against our own policy to seek to, where we can, maintain alignment with EU law.

“I will of course, take this important matter into a number of conversations that I’ll be having at COP28.”

Ms Lennon told The Herald that "ecocide law is developing quickly, with many nations criminalising environmental destruction and supporting efforts to make ecocide an international crime”.

She added: “Ecocide will be a crucial topic at COP28, so I am delighted that the Scottish Government recognises its importance.

“As well as keeping pace with the EU, the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary must take the opportunity to listen to global south representatives on the need for ecocide law.

The Herald: Monica LennonMonica Lennon (Image: PA)

“Under Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership, Scotland punched above its weight on loss and damage.

“If the political will exists, Humza Yousaf could provide much-needed global leadership on ecocide prevention and COP28 is the right place to do so.”

Ms McAllan told MSPs that the Scottish Government will use COP28 to ensure “our leadership in loss and damage builds momentum for urgent funding”.

Read more: Ecocide law: Polluters could see turnover seized and 20 years in jail

She added that the summit will be an opportunity for “that our commitment to low carbon energy under a just transition to net zero, particularly around offshore wind and hydrogen” to “influence others to do more to achieve net zero”.

The cabinet secretary also told Holyrood that the Scottish Government will use COP28 to “advance international relationships, attract investment in Scotland and enhance Scotland’s global reputation, particularly on renewable energy”.

She said: “We will also continue using our platform to platform the voices of women, young people.

Global loss and damage at COP28 fund welcomed

On the opening day of COP28 in Dubai, delegates agreed a $400 million fund for loss and damage, after the Scottish Government helped kickstart the movement for financial reparations to countries worst impacted by the climate crisis.

The EU, UK, US and others immediately announced contributions totalling around $400m for poor countries reeling from the impacts of climate change.

It's hoped the deal will provide the momentum for an ambitious wider agreement on action during the summit.

Read more: Humza Yousaf calls for 'radical and ambitious action' at COP28

United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres, said: “I welcome the decision taken an the opening of COP28 to operationalise the new loss and damage fund – an essential tool for delivering climate justice.

“I call on leaders to make generous contributions and get the fund and climate conference started on a strong footing.”

Mr Yousaf, whose government has pledged £7 million to loss and damage before COP28 had even begun, said he was “proud Scotland became the first country in the global north during COP26 to commit funding to loss and damage”.

He added: “(I’m) pleased to see COP28 agree to operationalize a loss and damage fund.

“(It’s) imperative money is mobilised in a way that does not add to the debt and burden on the global south.”