“What do we get from COP26?”
That question has been at the top of most media commentators’ lips ever since the climate summit in Glasgow ended on Saturday.
So let’s put on our curators’ caps and focus for a moment on what Scotland got out of the glitzy match between 116 world leaders and 1000-plus environment advocates.
Dubbed by some to be the most important event since the 1997 meeting of the World Health Assembly in Helsinki, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Scotland provided Scotland’s two most senior politicians, SNP Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson, with the opportunity to stand head-to-head in the global arena for a time.
While you might have expected this to produce the mother of all hard feelings, the fact is, they left the summit with greater mutual respect.
They both knew climate change was a winner and that a joint Scottish drive could go a long way to improving the behaviour of fellow Commonwealth members on a global scale.
Backing that up with economic rewards could transform tens of millions of lives. And they agreed on the need for post-2020 aid for action on climate change.
The paths taken by both politicians were possibly different, but a common theme was that Scotland and Scotland alone must drive the change Scotland needs to guarantee a low-carbon economy in the next 50 years.
And to tackle that change, the future can no longer be left to the merits of up to 50 single-minded forward-thinking country to make sure the 2030 commitment to 80% renewable energy by 2050 is met.
Our biggest economic development project, our oil and gas sector, must do its bit too. But there is little room for complacency.
That is why energy companies, despite their slowest growth in twenty years, are better placed than ever to be part of the change.
They are now staring into the dawn of a new age. Generating a cashflow stream for the first time that is consistent and hedged against our changing climate.
Glencore, Shell, Neste Oil, Forte Oil, Ecotricity – most of the oil and gas industry in the UK are fighting the battle to ensure our new ways of energy supply don’t go the way of the dinosaur. And we have them to thank for that.
That said, their biggest fight is not to be king of the hill at COP26 in a country with populations the size of Scotland, but to be one of our many stateless low-carbon industrialists.
But despite Swinney and Davidson’s robust presence on the world stage, we are being out-performed by a new generation of energy companies in Scotland.
E.ON, ScottishPower, Scottish Utility, Renishaw, Scottish Hydro, Scottish Grid and Scottish Hydro Networks all have the ability to be very relevant in the post-Kyoto period, providing the vast majority of our renewable power through their existing assets.
With the ability to source vast amounts of low-carbon energy and to power our wider manufacturing, distribution and transport operations.
Not least in an era when batteries will be used on their own or as an energy source, filling the gap between hydro energy and wind energy as Scotland seeks to meet its absolute targets for 100% renewables by 2032.
And most importantly – energy companies have the flexibility to deploy all renewable technology on their networks.
That might be changing the shape of our network or upgrading our energy supply to suit the demands of 2040. And it might also mean finding new ways to save energy, respond to security threats or manage the massive cost of maintaining and modernising our grid, but this isn’t science fiction.
Our energy mix for the next 50 years will need to be a mix of large-scale, new technologies to complement the grid infrastructure we already have, as well as developing a new domestic and wholesale electricity storage market that allows businesses to do business when costs are cheaper – but also with the flexibility to store and let energy run on during the peak.
So the Commonwealth is going to have to send a strong signal that this is the future direction of travel on climate change and businesses and communities across the Commonwealth will need to figure out how to play their part in the change.
Nor is it just Scotland that has to work with other Commonwealth nations to achieve this.
Nations across the globe are now waking up to the opportunities that are available to them if they make bold choices that green the planet.
And that is a message we can all now stand behind.