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Climate action with hope and optimism

A blog post by Catherine Gee

This #ScotClimateWeek our Deputy CEO Catherine Gee reflects on the recent U-turn on proposed environmental policy by the UK Government and highlights why she believes that we should be moving forward and taking meaningful climate action with hope and optimism.

I’ve worked in the environmental sector for some time now, sometimes longer that I care to remember, and I know that the sector can be perceived to be full of extremists and ideologists with unreasonable and unachievable views.  I have always said that there is a place for every view and approach; it is this very balance that creates momentum and facilitates progress.

The recent terminology that I heard when the UK Government was announcing its change of direction in environmental policy is at best insulting and at worst derogatory – my interpretation of this being that those calling for better and quicker action on the transition to net zero are ideologists and that the scaling back of ambition and targets is pragmatic.  Ideology certainly has its place but to suggest that the vast number of people working to progress environmental outcomes are ideological and don't have good enough evidence on which to base their action is insulting and incorrect. 

I would describe myself as a pragmatist but also one that, in the face of the challenges that we face to create a more sustainable and just world, approaches this with hope and optimism.  We would not have had the landmark, historic 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and the binding framework for our global net zero transition, had it not been for the stubborn optimism shown by Christiana Figueres and her team of negotiators.  To listen to her reflections on this experience is both inspiring and impressive. 

Staying on the ideology phrasing – there is overwhelming, global scientific consensus that human activity and the industrial revolution, that was made possible by the discovery and use of fossil fuels, is causing our climate to change which in turn is disrupting the natural systems that regulate our planet and is killing lots of people and other species.  I’ve never thought that evidence-based science is idealistic – the very opposite really – and we know more every day as the science evolves and uncovers more evidence so we need to move with it and rather than hit reverse.   And there is also evidence that economically we will be worse off by delaying targets for net zero, not least that this will slow down the innovation, investment and market shifts that are required to get us there.  Indeed, many have recently reported that we are reaching the tipping point for the EV market and are the point at which prices start to significantly tumble and make wider adoption much more affordable.  I’m not sure a delay in the targets will do anything to help those who are currently priced out of the market, quite the contrary, it is more likely to hinder them in the longer term.

As I reflect on the position taken recently to scale back ambition in the UK Government’s progress to net zero, whilst I am deeply disappointed, I am also inspired to do more.  We will not scale back the ambition that our charity has set out in terms of its progress to net zero, we are aiming for 2030.  We know this won’t be easy, we know that we will need to make difficult choices but we want to lead, we want to learn and we want to share as we go.  Through our membership of Scottish Environment Link, we are part of a Carbon Credible Group with representation from a range of different types of environmental organisations, all wanting to come together to lead and learn.  This is what we all need to do – at home, at work and in our community and families.

We will carry on despite the lack of UK political leadership and we will call for the environment to unite us rather than divide us, politically and socially.  We will continue to be part of the global effort to make progress through our support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and we must remain hopeful and optimistic about COP28.  We will encourage Scotland to maintain its leadership and ambition for net zero by 2045 and to ensure that this is backed up by credible, funded policies and plans that facilitate the achievement of a just transition.  We will work to create a climate literate nation that understands the importance of looking after our planet and what they can do about it and the positive co-benefits of climate action.  We will do that in a way that connects with all parts of society so that everyone can see how they can meaningfully and positively contribute in the joint effort to transition Scotland to a net zero nation. 

I will continue to lead with hope and optimism.

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