IT’S the kind of noble action you’d hope a Scotland properly in the world would be all about. This week, the Scottish Government said it will present a dossier of evidence at COP27 justifying “loss and damage” climate reparations for developing nations.

What’s loss and damage? Well, it’s not “mitigation” (stopping and reducing greenhouse gases). Nor is it “adaptation” (adjusting yourself to current environmental impacts). It’s the climatic damage that’s inescapably been done, baked in over centuries of developed-world industrialisation – and right now, as it crests, causing havoc to poorer states and island nations.

Hurricanes, floods, droughts, plagues and rising seas ravage places like Pakistan, Somalia, the Maldives and many more, their extremes unprecedented. So the cry from the South has been: pay up, Northerners, so that we can clean up your mess – or at least try to survive its consequences.

And to my shame, I’d hardly noticed the world-leading role Scotland has played in pushing for “loss and damage” reparations.

The great anxiety from the Western powers (the US, the UK and France) is this. If they concede the point – that their leading role in industrialisation has made our climate more disintegrated and destructive – then they will be forever on the hook for litigation and demands.

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The Paris Agreement in 2015 recognised loss and damage but explicitly firewalled industrial-era nations from being “liable” for such reparations.

The numbers are indeed potentially huge. The V20 – a coalition of climate-vulnerable countries – has lost an estimated $525 billion in the past 20 years – a fifth of their wealth – because of the effects of climate breakdown. Oxfam assesses loss and damage will reach $290-580bn a year by 2030 and $1 trillion by 2050.

So who moves first if it opens the floodgates of reparation cases? Scotland did. At COP26, we were the first country in the world to pledge £2m specifically towards loss and damage funding (afterwards, Denmark was the first nation-state, pledging £16m).

As the US environmental magazine Grist reports: “Although the monetary contribution was small compared to the need, it was a giant symbolic victory in the eyes of loss and damage advocates”.

“The biggest contribution of Scotland was de-tabooing the issue,” said Harjeet Singh, head of strategy at the Climate Action Network, an international coalition of more than 1800 environmental groups.

“No developed-country government was even agreeing to talk about loss and damage at that level. The biggest breakthrough was a government coming forward and saying, ‘loss and damage is an issue, and I’m willing to put money behind it. It’s a matter of justice.’”

Things seem to have stalled since. A talking shop called the Glasgow Dialogues has been set up. Out of that, a meeting on “practical action” around loss and damage happened earlier this week, where the Scottish dossier was announced.

But many activists are setting up COP27 in Cairo as the summit where the structures and the funding commitments for this will finally be established.

In her speech earlier this week, Nicola Sturgeon recalled, regretfully, a lost chance from 1991. Ahead of the Rio Earth Summit, the Alliance of Small Island States had called for insurance mechanisms to be integrated into what would later become the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Continues Sturgeon: “They recognised — even then — that loss and damage as a result of climate change was inevitable. And they proposed, rightly, that developed nations should pay into a pool, to meet the costs that would otherwise be borne by island nations and low-lying developing states.

“Unfortunately, that proposal was rejected — marking the start of a campaign which continues to this day.”

Let me raise a hand here. Are we being entirely coherent? One might argue that the first eco-imperative of a fossil-fuel-producing new nation, as the tipping points loom, is to reduce extraction of oil and gas as urgently and comprehensively as possible.

Warming caused by its industrial and commercial use as fuel — that’s precisely what’s enacting chaos in the developing world. On the question of drilling new fields in the North Sea, Sturgeon is standing behind some ecological risk assessments. (Though from her most recent round of interviews, the mood music is that the reports will rule against further extraction.) And there is some triangulating going on with Sturgeon’s announcement of the Building A New Scotland Fund in the conference speech, where a string of necessaries – low-energy housing, green jobs, etc – gets funded by £20bn of “remaining oil revenues”.

Hmm. At what point in the future do even the extractions currently underway face an early termination?

Might we have to bite down on the fact that oil and gas is a “resource curse”, as the economists used to call it, but for different reasons?

The curse is not that our systems of governance would be flooded and corroded by fountains of unexpected wealth. The curse is that our full sovereignty will come at exactly the point when this contribution to the biospheric ruin of the world has to stop. And what’s truly accursed is the temptation to use it and exploit it in the early days of indy. Nerves will have to be held, in the face of autocrats as well as ecology.

But if they are held, the prize for an indy Scotland as the century proceeds will, I think, be enormous.

THERE is an acute need to prepare Western populations for a profound change in their composition and character.

Whether pulled by our falling birth rate – but much more pushed by the climatic destruction of homelands – we Northerners are going to be living in a burgeoning cosmopolis. A situation where those burned and baked out of their homelands as a consequence of our historic and recent actions as industrial (and imperial) nations will be flooding across our borders.

Reparations will go a little way towards stabilising poorer nations so that people may maintain a working and social life there. But there is no escaping that climate refugees are a wall of desperate humanity advancing upon us.

The reactionary, cruel stupidity of the current Tory party on these issues hopefully consigns them (and who knows, maybe also eventually Brexit) to the bin of history.

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But it was noticeable to me, in Sturgeon’s high-road conference speech, that she genuinely embraced the fleeing migrant in any future Scottish state.

As she put it: “My dream [as opposed to Suella Braverman’s] is that we live in a world where those fleeing violence and oppression are shown compassion and treated like human beings. Not shown the door and bundled onto planes like unwanted cargo.”

It’s not too hard to assert a higher moral standard than the current Home Secretary. Nevertheless, I think Sturgeon should begin to extend her compassionate compass to those fleeing inevitable climate breakdown as well.

Removing nukes, forcing reparations, being open to huddled masses: Scotland is amassing its soft power and moral capital for a promising independent future. But if there was ever a leadership to be exercised in shaping a national narrative and consensus around having a much greater capacity for migrant populations, it is now.

If not us, then who? If not now, then when?