The eyes of the world have been on the Clydeside this week as Scotland welcomes global leaders and campaigners for the COP26 climate conference.
It was a privilege to attend as West Dunbartonshire’s MP – at what may be one of the most important international conferences this century – on the day of COP26 which focused on youth and public empowerment.
I was reminded that it was a son of Clydebank – the late Ian Lennox McHarg – who was one of the leading organisers of Earth Day in the 1970s; helping to launch the global ecological movement and bring concerns about climate change into the public eye.
As a Bankie, Professor Ian McHarg was a Scottish environmentalist who became a leading voice in the United States through his academic work at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. 50 years on, his book “Design with Nature” remains a seminal work on ecological planning – speaking of the need to build resilient communities in the face of climate change.
It was on Earth Day in 2016 that the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by more than 120 countries, and I’m sure Professor McHarg would be proud to see Scotland now taking centre stage in efforts to tackle the climate emergency.
It is incumbent on governments of all levels to play their part in the fight against global warming. There has been a lot of interest in West Dunbartonshire’s pioneering district heating system at Queen’s Quay, which generates energy from the River Clyde to heat homes, businesses and public buildings. It is the first large-scale heat pump of its kind in Scotland; leading the way in delivering a carbon-free renewable energy system.
Scotland may not yet have a seat at the table as an independent nation, but projects like this are a great example of the ambition being shown by the Scottish Government to decarbonise faster than any G20 country. However, the scale of the climate challenge means there is much more still to do to ensure a credible pathway to net-zero.
A global crisis requires global solutions, and it was striking to hear former US Vice-President Al Gore speaking in Glasgow about the world being at a tipping point in the fight against climate change. On the same day thousands of children and young people took to the streets to demand meaningful climate action, he spoke passionately about the need to listen to the voices of those calling for change.
I found it inspiring to meet with young climate campaigners who have come to Scotland determined to safeguard the planet for generations to come. Their future is in the hands of the world’s leaders at COP26, and I sincerely hope they rise to the challenge.
This article was written for publication in the Clydebank Post.