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World Earth Day 2024


Dr Sam Gardner, our Head of Climate Change & Sustainability, takes a look at the global report card on the UN Development Goals.

World Earth Day is a sensible time to take stock of where we stand in global efforts to build a sustainable future.


From the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in the 60s, through the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 and the Paris Agreement, the profile, and to a lesser extent, action on sustainability, has been gaining momentum.

Despite many headlines to the contrary, it’s important to recognise that change is possible, and progress is achievable.  At a global level since 2015 we have seen year-on-year growth in renewables; almost one-third of the world’s electricity now comes from wind, solar and hydro power.

But as brilliant as it is, the stark reality is it’s still not remotely sufficient to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) by 2030.  Indeed, the 2023 report card pulls no punches saying “the SDGs are in peril.  We’ve entered an age of polycrisis and hard-earned progress is threatened by the climate crisis, conflict, gloomy global economic outlook and lingering COVID-19 effects.”  Among the measurable targets, a mere 15%are on track to be achieved by 2030. Nearly half (48%) show moderate or severe deviations from the desired trajectory. More than one-third have experienced no progress or, even worse, have regressed.

A concerning picture of SDG progress at the midpoint:




  • On Track
  • Moderately or Severely Off Track
  • Stagnation or Regression

This challenge means there’s a need for renewed commitment by everyone who has the means to build a better future, quicker.  ScottishPower and Iberdrola are up for that challenge and are committed to playing their part.

In the UK we are investing £12bn in renewable power and the electricity network to connect homes and businesses across the country to clean electricity.  From the East Anglia Hub which will deliver 3.6GW of capacity, enough to power 3.5m homes, to the subsea highways of the Eastern Green Links, we’re investing in the infrastructure that will make a difference.

But our commitment to sustainability also extends beyond the critical role of the energy assets we own and build to encompass the breadth of the UN SDGs, from support for women in sports, through enabling the circular economy to working to restore nature.  All this and much more is set out in our sustainability strategy Action2030, where we’ve set ourselves 28 targets capturing our ambition to be at the forefront of the move to a sustainable future.

We’re supporting our partners and communities in their decarbonisation and biodiversity efforts, for example the Scottish Business Climate Collaboration Climate Hub, a free resource to support the SME sector get to grips with net zero.  Or the fantastic ‘Restoration Forth’ where the ScottishPower Foundation is helping WWF, scientists, charities and community groups to restore and sustainably manage seagrass and oyster habitats for a thriving Firth of Forth.

This collaboration between businesses, communities and charities is critical if we are to be successful in harnessing the skills and resources, we need in order to deliver a sustainable future.  Governments and companies must hold their nerve when faced with the challenge of shifting the status quo and provide the leadership that is vital to releasing the untapped potential for change.  The latest global report card is clearly marked down as ‘failing’.  However, it doesn’t say we have failed, we know what is required, we can see the pathway we need to take, and we have the solutions all around us to build a better future, quicker.

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