AMIDST the many challenges facing our climate, it is worth appreciating those moments when there are things to celebrate.

It’s been a big week for green energy in Orkney and across Scotland. The announcement that the EU is providing €20 million in funding for a 16-turbine tidal wind farm off our coast is one that every environmentalist should celebrate.

The project can be a game changer for not just local people, but for the sector in Scotland. It confirms that with so many skilled workers, and such enviable resources, our Highland and Island communities and the seas around us can be at the heart of our transition to cleaner, greener and locally sourced energy.

It will be a huge boost for Scotland’s renewables sector, with high-quality supply chain jobs created across our country. Orkney was already leading the change, with local waters playing host to Orbital Marine’s O2 turbine, the most powerful tidal turbine in the world.

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The iconic and beautiful natural landscapes and seascapes of Orkney are a million miles from the built-up skyscrapers and palaces of Dubai, but as world leaders descended on the Emirates for the COP28 climate summit, it is vital that projects like this are replicated and promoted across the world.

It can be hard to be optimistic about COP summits. Past conferences have seen leaders promising the earth but taking backward steps. It’s what companies and governments say that matters, it’s what they do. It’s actions that make a difference.

This year’s conference must surely do better than previous ones. It must succeed where they have failed and must live up to the urgency of the moment, not least because it is taking place at the tail end of what many scientists believe to be the hottest year on record. July alone was believed to be the hottest month in the history of the world.

It wasn’t just July. We’ve had 12 months of unrelenting extreme weather, with deadly heat waves, wildfires and floods.

There are communities across Scotland that have felt the impact first-hand, with floods punishing towns and villages across the north-east and forcing hundreds of people from their homes in Brechin, while Cannich in the Highlands experienced one of the largest wildfires in the UK for many years.

I’ve been to Cannich to see the aftermath and it was like looking at something out of an apocalyptic movie. It was mile after mile of charred trees and damaged land as far as you can see. It showed the immense power of nature and offered a painful glimpse into a future that scientists have long warned of and that we must do everything to avoid.

In countries around the world, our climate is already a matter of life and death. That is why the days ahead will be so crucial to the lives, wellbeing and future of billions of people. Every fraction of a degree is one that will impact millions of people here and now, as well as generations to come.

It was only two years ago that COP26 took place in Glasgow. I remember the optimism and the hope that was in the air. It was intoxicating. It was to be our last, best hope for change and our chance to avoid climate catastrophe.

It wasn’t just what was happening in the conference rooms that made headlines. There were big protests in the street and it felt like every cafe had become a hub of debate as people from across Scotland and beyond came together to talk about solutions.

Yet, by the time the last leaders had flown out and the final corporate stands had been packed away, it was apparent that it offered too little too late.

The negotiations led to some welcome changes, not least on loss and damages where the then first minister, Nicola Sturgeon (below), announced that Scotland would be leading the change with a groundbreaking new fund. But the overall package did not go anywhere near far enough.

The National:

Can the event in Dubai succeed where events in Glasgow and Cairo have failed? We all have to hope so.

But COP itself is not the be-all and end-all. We don’t need an international summit to know that we have to move on from oil and gas. Indeed, with new research showing that fossil fuel jobs have fallen by 50% in recent years, we cannot afford not to be investing in programmes like the fantastic one in Orkney.

It won’t be easy. There is a lot to do, and a sea of misinformation out there. We’ve seen that this week in Scotland with the publication of the groundbreaking Heating in Buildings Scotland Bill, which, with a focus on home insulation and clean energy, will revolutionise the way we heat our homes. It’s one of the single most important bills that this parliament will consider.

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Despite its huge importance, it’s been met with the usual urban myths about heat pumps from many of the same people who opposed the deposit return scheme, a transition away from oil and gas, and almost every step that can make a difference to our environment.

When in fact, it is reason for optimism, opportunity and pride.

There have been too many words. We need action, but we are running out of time. I am proud that Orkney is leading the way. Whatever successes or disappointments come from COP, we cannot let that stop us from making the change that is so vital.