Nicola Sturgeon has warned world leaders must “match their rhetoric with reality” ahead of COP27 in Egypt after acknowledging the aftermath of the previous summit in Glasgow had “lost some of its momentum”.
The First Minister welcomed Westminster equivalent Rishi Sunak’s presence at the meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, a year on from Scotland’s hosting of the international conference on climate change.
Activists have accused world leaders of using the meetings as a platform for “greenwashing” without carrying out any meaningful action to halt the crisis affecting the planet in its tracks.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres kicked off the summit by telling delegates: “We are in the fight of our lives – and we are losing.”
Sturgeon said global unrest, largely resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the impact on energy prices, had “taken focus away” from efforts on climate change.
But she said now was the time for “renewed efforts” to meet global emissions targets and keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C.
“I think there is a sense that there hasn’t been the momentum out of Glasgow that we might have hoped for,” she told STV News.
“That is perhaps understandable, but it is also regrettable. I think that is never an even bigger need here in Egypt to get things back on track and to focus firmly as this cop is intended to do, on implementing the outcomes of Glasgow.
“Whether that is on keeping 1.5 alive or crucially on issues of climate finance, including the issue of loss and damage, which importantly is on the formal agenda here for the first time ever to tackle.”
Despite wrangling from some nations, the issue of funding for loss and damage from climate change, such as destruction of crops, buildings and infrastructure in poorer countries, is now an item on the official agenda for the talks.
Sturgeon said there was an “obligation” on richer countries that have largely caused climate change to help those suffering the impacts of it.
She said: “The invasion of Ukraine did upend things and it was inevitable that some short-term decisions that might not have been foreseen just a few months ago would be taken.
“The one thing that hasn’t changed is that the climate emergency is real, it is urgent, and countries are experiencing the impacts of that.
“Even in countries like ours, you know, the summer just passed higher temperatures than most of us have ever been used to.
“And clearly in countries like Pakistan, devastation in the shape of the floods that hit that country earlier on this year.”
The Glasgow Climate Pact, signed by around 200 countries at the conference last year, agreed to strengthen their emissions-cutting targets for 2030 by the end of 2022 – despite wording on the deal being watered down at the last minute.
Sturgeon said she empathised with feelings of “climate fatigue,” adding it was “easy to be cynical” about action taken at the meetings.
But she called on countries to “follow through” with their promises, pointing to Sunak’s arrival as a show of solidarity with green policy.
The PM initially decided not to attend the conference, only to later U-turn on his appearance.
“I suppose what I would say and actually it’s not just a comment about Rishi Sunak it would apply to me and to leaders of governments everywhere; The rhetoric and the reality have to match,” she said.
“Rishi Sunak is rightly today talking about the potential for the UK to be a green superpower. That’s good. That’s what we should be aiming forward and certainly what Scotland is aiming for.
“But that’s not consistent with his Government’s opposition to onshore wind power, for example, the you know, the bizarre opposition that we’ve had from him and Liz Truss over recent months to solar power.”
She added: “So we need to see a matching of the words with the policy that is being taken forward that matters to Scotland. We hold a lot of levers in our own hands.
“You know, it’s easy to be cynical about does anything ever get done here that matters?
“Actually, I think the answer to that is yes. And often you can see that most if you if you apply the counterfactual, if it didn’t happen, there would be no prospect of bringing countries together to meet the progress that we have seen.
“So these are essential events in my view, but its implementation that counts Glasgow progress to the extent everybody would have wanted to see, but it made some really important progress.”