With just over three weeks left to go until The Herald COP26: A Catalyst for Change virtual event in association with CMS, we are taking the time to sit down with our expert speakers to hear their views on how well Scotland is doing in tackling the climate crisis and what they want to see come from COP26.

We were delighted to have the time to speak with one of our panellists, Lindsay McQuade, CEO of ScottishPower Renewables.

ScottishPower Renewables is at the forefront of the development of the renewables industry. Its ambitious growth plans include expansion of its existing onshore wind portfolio, investment in new large scale solar deployment and innovative grid storage systems including batteries.

Lindsay had the following interesting viewpoints to share with us:

Why are you passionate about sustainability and fighting the climate crisis?

“The climate crisis affects all of us – no matter who we are or where we’re from – and it’s happening today; it’s not something that will impact future generations. Time is of the essence if we are to address those past events, information gaps and behaviours that have brought us to this point.

200 years ago, we didn’t have the science to understand the ramifications of burning fossil fuels. Ignorance may have been an excuse then, but now – with headlines on most days referring to the global climate emergency – we need to take action today to limit the devastating impact it will have around the world. That’s why COP26 this year in Glasgow is so important.

COP26 is Glasgow and the UK’s opportunity to show leadership on tackling climate change and making Net Zero happen, through international collaboration and buy-in.

We all – households, business, governments, communities – need to play our part, come together and act now to have a chance of delivering Net Zero and doing our bit to save the planet, with clear targets and milestones along the way. It might seem daunting for an individual to imagine how their actions can help, but collectively – if we all take steps – the cumulative actions will make an impact.

For example, the wind industry in the UK was, at best, conceptual back in the early 1990s. Today, it’s now powering its way to be the backbone of our electricity system from John O’Groats to Land’s End, providing low cost clean electricity with plans for 40GW of offshore wind and 30GW of onshore wind by 2030.Those plans are underway, but there is still a concerted effort required to make the investment, construction and operation of those plants happen and we simply don’t have the luxury of time anymore given the alternative of risks associated with extreme weather, ecological and environmental peril and disruption of the supply chains and trade we’ve taken for granted until now. We have to go further and faster than ever before and deploy more renewables, at scale and at speed.

That’s why I’m so passionate about what we do at ScottishPower Renewables: investing in generation from natural resources like wind, solar and storage, that will help transform how we power our lives – at home, at work or on the move.

I can honestly say I wake up every day thinking about the opportunities ahead and it excites me knowing my team are making a difference and working to create a cleaner, greener and better future, quicker.”

With regards to climate change and sustainability, which areas do you think Scotland is excelling in and which areas do you think need improved upon?

“Scotland was previously a world-leading hub of heavy industry and we’re now at the forefront of the green industrial revolution – leading the way in shaping a cleaner and greener future for us all – so as a country we have a great story to tell about making the transition a reality.

That’s a journey that really got started more than a decade ago when Scotland introduced what was

Since then, Scotland has continued to innovate and lead the way to a cleaner and greener future. As a country, we’ve been coal-free since 2016. And by 2020, more than 97 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand was generated from renewables – an incredible transition and achievement.

That’s a massive change and really shows the progress we’re making in the journey to Net Zero – and the important role Scotland plays in that journey – but we need to do more and do it faster.

Take ScottishPower as an example. We closed our coal plants, ditched gas and only produce clean, green energy, but it’s taken us more than 20 years to install 2GW of onshore clean energy capacity across the UK. We’re planning to treble that over the next decade. Between now and 2025, we’ve announced plans to invest nearly £4 billion in 2.1GW of renewable generation and storage as a step towards that.

That’s the scale of transformation that’s needed and we need to have the right planning and policy framework in place to support more renewable energy coming on to the electricity grid.

And that’s not just from windfarms – we’re talking about hybrid energy parks that combine wind, solar, battery storage and even green hydrogen, which is another area where Scotland, and ScottishPower, are leading the way.

Scotland also has the potential to become the world-leader in floating offshore wind, thanks to the ScotWind seabed leasing process, which we’re bidding to be part of with our partners, Shell.

ScotWind will help create a new green offshore industry in Scotland with huge potential for exporting our skills and experience globally, while helping the UK decarbonise and putting the country on course for a cleaner and greener future.

So, all in all, while there’s a huge amount to celebrate – there’s still a lot of work to do, and we all need to step up and do our bit.”

Do you think public attitudes in Scotland are conducive to tackling climate change? If not, what action can be taken to increase public support?

“Most people want to act on climate change, but many say they feel powerless to do so. COP26 is a chance to change that, with Scotland leading the way on harnessing that drive and ambition, which will be key to tackling the climate emergency and delivering Net Zero.

We only have to look back to the likes of the Climate Change Scotland Act 2009 to see the difference public attitudes can make. That world-leading legislation

It was the springboard for the growing ambition, the actions and the changing attitudes towards climate change that came after and continue to shape our vision today for a cleaner and greener future.

We know that human behaviour is driving unprecedented changes to our planet’s atmosphere

That means changing how we work, live and travel – ditching our petrol and diesel cars and electrifying public transport as well as cars, bikes and even scooters; getting rid of gas boilers and moving to electric heating for our homes; and decarbonising industry and the goods and services we’ve come to rely on in a modern society.

These are big changes, but ones that will also reap big benefits – environmentally and economically – and the alternative of doing nothing doesn’t bear thinking about. We must act now. We are the first generation to understand the climate emergency, and the last to be in a position to do something about it.”

If one action could come out of COP26 that would drive real progress in tackling the world’s climate crisis, what would you want that action to be?

“Ultimately, we need to ensure that Net Zero can be achieved fairly.

COP26 is our chance to set out a clear pathway to Net Zero and a better future, quicker that ensures no one is left behind – whether in making the switch to electric transport and low carbon heating, or in accessing the skills or training to get one of the thousands of new green jobs that will be created as we move to a cleaner and greener future.

It must be a just transition – and, through COP26, Scotland and the UK can lead the way on making that happen and creating a really powerful legacy that will make a difference for generations to come.”

The Herald COP26: A Catalyst for Change in association with CMS is a free-to-attend virtual event. It will discuss how Scotland can seize the opportunities of COP26 as a springboard for change and ensure it has a meaningful and enduring legacy. The event will highlight some of the incredible work already happening across Scotland and address how we can continue, and build upon, this in the years to come.

The event takes place on Thursday, September 16 from 9am until 11am. Join the discussion by registering for your place on the dedicated event website.

The event will be held via the Hopin online events platform. For more information contact Linsey Hunter, Events Manager, by emailing linsey.hunter@newsquest.co.uk.