COP26 will change the world - it has to

13/01/20 | Blog
Fire in lithgow

Scottish Renewables CEO Claire Mack takes a look ahead as our planning for our Annual Conference, on March 24-25 in Edinburgh, proceeds apace:


Anyone who works in renewables has somewhere within them the deep conviction that we are here to change the world.

My own transition into the industry was spurred by the idea that this is an industry that is about much more than what we are (green electrons), it’s about what we do (reduce carbon, create jobs, invent new materials and technology, make better use of our natural resources - the list goes on and on).

One of the most exciting aspects of what we do right here in Scotland is our world-leading status – something we as an industry are rightly proud of, and talk about a lot. The idea that what we are doing here in our small place in the northern hemisphere is actually a global game changer is one of the most exciting aspects of working in renewables.

That theme – renewables changing the world – is one we’re going to focus on as part of this year’s Annual Conference.

I’m absolutely delighted to announce that we’ve got one of the UK’s best-selling authors and most well-known broadcasters coming to share his thoughts with us this year. Tim Marshall, author of the book ‘Prisoners of Geography’ will be with us to discuss how clean energy is causing major shifts in the geopolitics of the world and will create new global dynamics based on resources that are much less volatile than oil. 

He will explore how what we do here will impact international relationships as well as how he has explained his work to young people specifically - and why doing so is so important.

The voices of the next generation – think Greta Thunberg and youth climate strikes – have been helpful to raising awareness of what we do and why we do it, and to making sure that the wider public understand the significance of renewables.

COP26 is now a topic that comes up in most conversations with our members, with government and even with our own families when we talk about our work.

COP will change the world - it has to.

And we here in Scotland won’t just be the host nation, we will be the nation that shows the world how it can be done.

There are no simple solutions to climate change.

It’s not something we can buy our way out of.

As industry we are very aware that there have been, and will continue to be, many bumps in the road along the way.

We’ve all heard naysayers:

“Why bother, Scotland going net-zero isn’t going to make a jot of difference”.

And of course the kind of energy and fuel choices the current and future powerhouses of China and India choose means that the bigger picture is never far from our minds.

But we didn’t give up using CFCs because there was a hole in the ozone layer over Scotland, and the same goes here.

It took research, development and deployment of new and better technology and products to help create a solution to the ozone problem.

Just because the actions of one small country won’t shift the dial doesn’t mean it won’t change the world.

And it is with that in mind that we must approach 2020.

The last five years have seen damaging action taken against the policies which underpinned our sector, but the hope is that we will see a reversal as quick as the initial blows.

With both the UK and Scottish Governments signed up to net-zero targets and the clock ticking ever faster as the undeniable effects of climate change hit us and those on the other side of the world even harder, we all know that we need every tool at our dispoal to adapt and mitigate the awful reality of climate change.

We have the capacity to be active agents rather than collateral damage in this.

We have the ability not to be bystanders.

What a great position to be in.

We’re contemplating how Scotland and the rest of the UK can use their knowledge and experience to bring the rest of the world with us in the future.

But we also need to concentrate on the decisions here and now which will impact how far - and how quickly - we can develop projects that will meet our clean growth ambitions.

These are the decisions and projects which we want to showcase through our Annual Conference on March 24-25 in Edinburgh.

The future of planning, finance, grid and the way we work sensitively but realistically in fragile landscapes will form the key focal points of our discussions.

And, of course, we’ll also be looking hard at how we create the best environment for all our technologies to flourish, so that every tool in the box can be used to ensure that Scotland and the UK leads the world in deploying renewable energy in the fight against climate change.

  • For more information on Scottish Renewables' Annual Conference programme, or to book, see our website.