This year’s Climate Week falls against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic. This has been a crisis of unprecedented challenges and has brought grief and hardship to many and our thoughts remain with those who have lost loved ones to this virus.

But amid the difficulty, the climate emergency has not gone away – far from it – and the Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change. Indeed, it must be central to our recovery.

Our starting point has most definitely changed, but our ambitions have not.

Shortly after last year’s Climate Week, the Scottish Parliament passed new legislation setting us on an ambitious course to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030 and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. We have some of the toughest climate legislation of any country in the world.

Climate Week 2020 is an opportunity to turn the spotlight back onto these ambitions and think more about how, together, we can achieve them. Because, as I have said many times, reaching net-zero must be a shared, national endeavor. We all need to do our bit.

Given the backdrop of COVID-19, Climate Week will be an opportunity for us to focus on Scotland’s green recovery from this crisis.

Last week we announced plans to invest nearly £1.6 billion to transform heat and energy efficiency of buildings and rapidly accelerate the decarbonisation of an area which makes up a quarter of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

This investment will directly support up to 5,000 jobs and tackle fuel poverty whilst also helping end our contribution to climate change.

This is an important example of how we are ensuring what we call a just and fair transition to net zero. No-one should underestimate the transformation that will be required right across our society as we ramp up plans to reduce our emissions. But equally, we are acutely aware that no-one must be left behind on this journey – it is one that we must all take together.

We are also committing £500 million in Scotland’s natural economy, including £150 million to help deliver a 50% increase in woodland creation by 2024 and an extra £150 million for flood risk management, vital to improving our resilience to the impacts of climate change.

The plans, outlined in the Programme for Government 2020/21, are among a range of measures to protect biodiversity, create green jobs and accelerate outr just transition to net-zero.

But we cannot do this alone, we need everyone in Scotland to play their part. Experiences of the COVID-19 lockdown have varied greatly for everyone, and we know that for many it has not been something to celebrate. However, early indications from our research show that lots of people have adopted new habits or started doing things differently, whether that’s eating more locally produced food, walking or cycling for short journeys, or trying to reduce their household waste. This has given us a glimpse of what life can be like in a low carbon society. And we can build on this.

In Scotland we have a particular approach to policy-making, putting people at its heart and consulting, engaging and involving those who live here in decision-making. This collaborative approach is especially important when it comes to tackling climate change. The changes we make as we decarbonise will have a significant impact on people’s daily lives.

The establishment of a citizens’ assembly on climate change is part of our commitment to open government, where citizens contribute to the policies that affect their lives, both now and in the future. The assembly will be independent of Parliament and Ministers, it will operate according to principles of transparency and inclusion and it will be representative of those who live in Scotland.

Although preparations for the assembly have – like so much else - been impacted by COVID-19, I was pleased to have submitted a report to the Scottish Parliament this week that sets out the arrangements for its operation, and the assembly will shortly be sending invitations for people to apply to become members.

Being a member of Scotland’s Climate Assembly will be both a privilege and a responsibility. People will be asked to learn from experts and each other; to deliberate and to be respectful of others’ views in making recommendations that will impact almost every aspect of our future as we become a net-zero society. I look forward to this invitation receiving a big response from every corner of our society. Scotland’s road to net zero must be one we walk together.

The year ahead will be a crucial year of action. We will publish an update to our Climate Change Plan by the end of 2020, and look forward to welcoming delegates to a safe and successful COP26 in Glasgow next November, an event which must set the world on course to net-zero in a way that is fair and just and supports a global green recovery.

So over the course of Climate Week, please take the opportunity to find out more about what our transition to net-zero means for you, your business or organisation – and how you can help, and benefit from, the transformation that needs to take place right across society in order to safeguard our world for future generations.

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform