Scotland is planning to boost its role within the United Nations (UN) after winning warm praise from the international body’s secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.
In a personal letter to the First Minister, Alex Salmond, Ban said he was delighted by the Scottish government’s “deep commitment” to achieving sustainable energy. He was pleased that the government wanted to work with the UN to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy for all.
“With an abundance of natural resources paired with ambitious renewable targets, Scotland is in an excellent position to play a leading role in our common efforts to find lasting sustainable solutions to the world’s pressing energy challenges,” wrote Ban.
He addressed Salmond as “his excellency” and invited his office to liaise with UN officials “on ways to deepen the engagement of your government with the efforts of the United Nations.”
This follows a meeting between Salmond and Ban in January at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. Salmond has now written to UN officials to begin the process of closer cooperation on energy policy.
“I am committed to ensuring Scotland plays its part in the collective efforts of the UN, business and government around the world to bring about improved standards of sustainable energy for all peoples and for the good of our environment,” Salmond told Ban.
“I look forward to the Scottish government working alongside and supporting the UN in pursuit of these goals.”
Scotland’s bigger role in the UN has been unveiled by the Scottish government on the eve of the major UN summit on sustainable development in Rio, Brazil, next week. Known as “Rio+20” as it is taking place 20 years after a historic earth summit in the same city 20 years ago, it’s an attempt to shift the world towards a more environmentally-friendly form of economic development.
Scotland will be represented in Rio by its environment and climate change minister, Stewart Stevenson. He will attend a series of events pledging the Scottish government’s support for sustainable energy, energy equality and climate justice.
“We are delighted to accept the Secretary General’s invitation to deepen Scotland’s engagement with the United Nations on their sustainable energy agenda,” Stevenson said.
“Scotland has a valuable contribution to make – that is the message I will take to Rio and I look forward to a deeper partnership with the UN as we work together for an equitable and sustainable future.”
Last month, Scottish ministers launched a £3 million climate justice fund to help poorer countries cope with the floods and droughts caused by climate pollution. The initiative won praise from Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as environmental, development and faith groups.
“Developed countries have a moral obligation to help developing countries tackle climate change and energy inequality,” argued Stevenson. “Scotland is already doing what it can, for example our support for work in Malawi and our recently launched climate justice fund which has received overwhelming support from Scottish civic society.
Ban Ki-moon’s backing for Scotland was welcomed by environmentalists. “Scotland's climate targets, our push for renewable energy and the new climate justice fund are all well worth promoting, and the world certainly needs good examples if the Rio meeting is to produce much useful,” said Dr Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland.
“Although the government has a major blind spot when it comes to the oil industry, you can’t fault them for their enthusiasm for renewable energy. In just a decade we have almost tripled the amount of our electricity coming from renewables, reducing emissions and creating jobs in the process.”
The Scottish government also announced this weekend £4 million worth of funding to help farmers and communities in Tanzania, Zambia and Rwanda combat the problems caused by climate change. Support is being given to projects runs by three charities, Oxfam, Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund and Tearfund.
“Scotland is well aware of its responsibilities to the wider world and we know that it is some of the world’s most vulnerable people in Sub Saharan Africa that are dealing with the harsh realities of climate change,” said Stevenson.
“I am delighted to announce this latest support from the International Development Fund ahead of the UN Summit as a sign of our commitment to helping alleviate poverty in the developing world and to empowering vulnerable communities to deal with effects of climate change.”