A Scottish Parliamentary view by Gillian Martin MSP, Convener of the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee of the Scottish Parliament
The science is clear – that the climate and ecological emergencies facing our planet are more serious than ever. The clamour for action is ever more heightened, and everyone has a role to play. As a parliamentarian in Scotland, I look forward to having our country welcome up to 30,000 delegates and 200 world leaders to COP26 in Glasgow.
COP26 is set to be the largest political summit the UK has ever hosted – the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris COP in 2015, with the talks in Glasgow widely considered to be the last opportunity to ensure delivery on commitments to keep global temperature rise to within 1.5-2.0°C. COP26 also offers a crucial opportunity to address how we deliver a truly just and green recovery from Covid-19.
Parliaments have a critical and ever-increasing role to play in these global emergencies – effective law making, scrutiny and budget approval is imperative in ensuring the targets and commitments made by governments are delivered. Related, parliaments offer the natural place for citizen participation in decision making.
COP26 allows the opportunity for the sharing and showcasing of best practice to ensure parliaments around the world can work to the very highest standards – ensuring governments are being ambitious enough and holding governments to their promises.
Alongside the formal talks, there are significant opportunities to shine a light on the unique role of parliaments, and related opportunities for legislators to work together to drive international and domestic action.
The GLOBE International Legislators’ Summit
It is now more critical than ever that we work together to emerge out of the Covid-19 crisis and deliver a truly green, fair and resilient recovery for citizens across the globe.
In the Scottish Parliament we have cross-party consensus on the need for more climate action, and to take the opportunity to elevate the status of parliamentarians in and around COP26. This is why we have agreed to host one of the largest gatherings of international parliamentarians ever convened to discuss the climate emergency.
This International Legislators’ Summit, which is due to take place in a hybrid format at the Scottish Parliament on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 November 2021, will see parliamentarians from around the world convene around ‘accelerating climate action and delivering a green, fair and resilient recovery’.
Organised by GLOBE International in partnership with the Scottish Parliament, this event will help highlight the critical role that parliaments all over the world will have to play if we are to effectively tackle the climate emergency. Indeed, it is only through effective law-making and detailed scrutiny that can we be confident that national governments can deliver on their global and national commitments.
The Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee & COP26
The summit builds on the work of my committee at the Scottish Parliament, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, which I convene.
In February 2020, we agreed that our principal focus for COP26 would be examining how parliaments can contribute to solutions to the climate crisis and effectively hold governments to account.
We also agreed a series of key objectives for engagement with COP26, including to:
- improve our own scrutiny on climate change by learning from international best practice,
- develop lasting partnerships with national and international organisations and legislatures to support climate change work over the coming decade,
- support our operational work to scrutinise climate change work, and
- co-ordinate, plan and deliver further opportunities offered through COP26 engagement as the UK retains COP26 presidency into 2022.
Recently, our committee scrutinised the Scottish Government’s developing plans for COP26 and explored Scotland’s priorities for the summit. Accordingly, the Scottish Government’s two key themes for COP26 are People and a Just Transition. It is intended that these themes will run throughout all that the Scottish Government does at COP26 and through the further four aims the Scottish Government has defined as key to COP26 for Scotland. The four aims are:
- A safe, secure and successful event in Scotland,
- Scotland plays its full part in securing an ambitious and deliverable global deal at COP26,
- COP26 fully contributes to Scotland meeting Net Zero through a Just Transition,
- COP26 enhances Scotland’s place in the world and attracts innovation, investment and builds even more effective partnerships that bring benefit to Scotland, our people and our goals.
With the impending elections here in Scotland in May, the work of our committee comes to an end this month. But we expect our successor committee to immediately pick up the reins following the elections and ensure that the Scottish Government delivers on these commitments.
Moreover, as part of our report to our successor committee, we made a significant recommendation concerning how legislatures can effectively tackle the climate emergency. We recommended that the Scottish Parliament set up a Net Zero Committee to lead and drive climate change scrutiny and action in the next session.
Establishing a Net Zero Committee in advance of COP26 could have a global impact, encouraging other legislatures to look at how climate scrutiny is organised, supported and delivered. The concept of a Scottish Parliament Net Zero Committee was endorsed by the independent UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) and could have a clear mandate as a connecting, strategic committee, considering the alignment of key government strategies across portfolios with net zero goals.
Finally, the effective routes to a truly green recovery across all nations will underpin the discussions at COP26. Our Committee conducted extensive work on Scotland’s path to a green recovery, and argued that a green recovery should be about building a more resilient Scotland, ensuring it is better equipped to deal with multi-faceted and complex shocks and challenges e.g. pandemics, climate change, biodiversity loss and geopolitical change - and to deliver a more just, equitable and healthy society and environment.
The emergence from Covid-19 offers opportunities to build more resilient, climate efficient communities, but we need to see much better policy coherence, and the implementation of those things we already know are required – we know what to do in many cases.
Directly related, the Committee found that sustainable development principles, and those of the UK CCC, were imperative but that the principles that underpin a green recovery need to go further:
‘A just transition must be at the heart of the green recovery, prioritising the most vulnerable and those whose paid employment is likely to be adversely affected by the transition. A wellbeing approach is necessary… and we need to further embed a human rights based approach to recovery, underpinned by the key principles of participation, accountability, non-discrimination, empowerment and law’.
For a truly global green recovery, we must work collaboratively to develop shared understandings of how we accelerate climate action and deliver a green, fair and resilient recovery. COP26 provides a critical forum to develop these bonds.
COP26 provides an opportunity to shine a light on the necessary contribution of parliaments in the climate and ecological emergencies – but also to candidly share where we must do better, and how we can do so. The International Legislators’ Summit at the Scottish Parliament provides an invaluable – and unique – opportunity to facilitate collaboration, open communication and shared learning. It is only by working together, across borders, that we can effectively meet the climate challenge.