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It’s time to take action to reverse climate change

A blog post by Graeme Dickson

The World is getting hotter. Preliminary data suggest that July was globally the warmest month on record ever. And, here in the UK, we were dealt with the hottest ever July day with temperatures hitting 38.1C. Experts have said climate change made the record-breaking temperatures at least five times as likely to happen.  

We may enjoy the need to break out the sun cream, take a rare opportunity to swim in the North Sea, or have a barbecue. However, for the thousands of travellers affected by the heatwave, it was a wake-up call of things to come if we don’t address the activities that have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.  

Much of what we do creates carbon emissions: heating our homes and workplaces, driving petrol or diesel cars or flying off on holiday. As a result of our actions the planet has already warmed significantly.   

With the Met Office confirming that the 10 hottest years have been in the period since 2002, we in Scotland can expect more extreme and unpredictable weather. Climate change will affect all aspects of our lives – from our infrastructure to our natural environment.  It is not just an issue for developing countries, although there is no doubt they will be hit the hardest.

Scotland’s future needs to be a fair transition to a zero carbon economy and society.  We already have some of the world’s most ambitious targets for climate change set in legislation.  But it will need all of us – citizens and businesses – to deliver the Scottish Government’s targets. We can do that by working together on a local scale and have a global impact.  That will be good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for our health and wellbeing.

Keep Scotland Beautiful, the environmental charity for which I am a trustee, supports a diverse range of stakeholders every day to help them change the way that they think about our environment, and to encourage them to take action to protect it. We focus on tackling climate change, litter, and unsustainable levels of consumption. We have chosen to do this under the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – 17 Global Goals introduced to set out a positive vision for the future.

Goal 13 is about Climate Action and encourages us all to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. We are seeing people, particularly young people, do great things on a daily basis, which gives us hope for the future.

So, we work with people to help them understand climate change, to reduce their carbon emissions, to improve local areas and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Changing behaviour may only mitigate climate change by about 20% but it is something we can all do that will make a difference and so is something we’re proactively supporting.
We also know that we need big system changes in how we generate electricity, heat our homes and travel. Governments will need to make hard decisions in regard to taxes and regulation. Those decisions can ensure a just and fair transition. But they may, nevertheless, be unpopular with people.

Our programme of engagement and education with young people, businesses, communities and public bodies over the past two decades has led to many more people having the confidence to make simple changes and to understand the need for system wide change.

Our flagship education programme, Eco-Schools, is designed to facilitate whole-school community action on Learning for Sustainability and is aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals. The programme encourages young people to engage with the environment by allowing them the opportunity to actively protect it – climate change is at the heart of our work in schools. 

As a way of supporting people to engage, we have developed Scotland’s first accredited Carbon Literacy training course in partnership with the Carbon Literacy Project.  It has enabled hundreds of people in communities and businesses to build confidence and identify opportunities to reduce their carbon emissions.  The course also helps attendees get up to speed with the science behind climate change and its impacts. We are accredited as a Gold Carbon Literate Organisation and a Carbon Literate Training Organisation.  A significant number of our staff, including members of our management team and board of trustees, are certified as Carbon Literate.

For over a decade we have administered the Climate Challenge Fund for the Scottish Government.  In the last year alone, we have supported 110 communities across Scotland’s with funding and resources to help them take local-level action to support the transition to a low carbon future for Scotland.

The community projects that are funded through the Climate Challenge Fund deliver a wide range of non-carbon benefits too, such as improved physical and mental health, better diet, increased confidence and community cohesion.   It is a helpful reminder that a low carbon future could also lead to some additional benefits for communities.

More recently we have been pleased to support people across Scotland to learn more, to have conversations and discuss solutions and to take action as part of the Scottish Government’s programme of Big Climate Conversations.

In future we will be supporting the forthcoming global climate strikes, initiated by young people, and now being supported by all ages.

And just this month, we were delighted to receive confirmation of funding to roll out our Climate Ready Classrooms programme which provides practitioners and learners in schools with workshops, tools and resources that support a whole-school approach to climate action within the Curriculum for Excellence.

Across Scotland we need to win hearts and minds and enable more people to understand the actions they can take to help combat climate change.  Climate change affects us all, so we all need to take responsibility to help tackle it.  But the signs are positive, and we really are making progress because people are receptive to change when support is provided for them to act. 

Find out more about how you can play your part and take action to protect our environment and reverse climate change at keepscotlandbeautiful.org

 

First published in the Scotsman on 15 August 2019

 

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