I have attended numerous international government meetings in my time, but none were quite like this COP28. It was huge, well-run and a truly global event.

For me, the key result was the agreement to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems”, setting the direction of travel for the years ahead, albeit without saying how this could be achieved or over what timescale. Important also was the agreement on loss and damage payments to help those nations currently most affected by climate change.

However, we still have a major challenge: how to adapt and survive climate change now. That was why I was at CoP28, on behalf of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), launching a new report that reviews climate change and nature, produced by the United Nations, UK Government, and the JNCC. This report highlights that there can be “no net zero without nature recovery”; that serious impacts on nature are already happening, and that recovering nature can be a cost-effective way to tackle climate change.

Maintaining the Earth’s “life support systems” (our life support systems) through actions such as peatland restoration, expanding native woodland, managing our agricultural land, coasts and seas effectively can all help maintain areas for wildlife and make significant contributions to surviving climate impacts. Importantly, such “nature-based solutions” are essential for our wellbeing, while significantly reducing the impacts of climate change. Globally there is still work to do, of course, to balance the arguments across climate mitigation (reducing carbon) and adaptation (how we survive). Developing “high nature/low carbon” solutions can work, we just need to get on with them.

So, what does this mean for us here in Scotland? First, I was struck by just how highly regarded we are for the actions being taken here in relation to climate change and to nature recovery more widely. Others at COP28 are supportive of what we are doing and are keen to work with us. Indeed, we have a real opportunity again, even in these tight financial times, to show global leadership and include “nature-based solutions” in the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan and Adaptation programme in 2024.

Whether you consider COP28 a success probably depends on your perspective. Many will consider that building on Glasgow COP26, (the first to focus real attention on fossil fuels), CoP28 points the way to a fossil fuel-free world. For others, however, the key future challenge will still be surviving rapidly increasing climate change. Either way, restoring nature has a crucial role to play.

Professor Colin Galbraith is the Chair of NatureScot and has held various roles in conservation organisations over the years. Colin is also currently the Appointed Councillor for Climate Change for the Scientific Council of the United Nations Convention of Migratory Species.