‘Together we have enormous power and influence over Edinburgh’s emissions’

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 17:10

Sophie Eastwood is a Commissioner for the Edinburgh Climate Commission. She is also Development and Operations Manager for the 2050 Climate Group.

In the first of a mini-series of blogs by Commissioners on the draft 2030 Climate Strategy, Sophie shares her thoughts on the strategy's strengths and weaknesses and stresses the need for optimism for Edinburgh to leave a legacy of lasting climate action.

What is strong in the strategy?

The City of Edinburgh Council are to be congratulated for developing a city and population wide strategy that has vision, is bold, and reaches across a whole range of council and partner services. 

It resonates with the consensus we have detected in our engagement with young people, and is reflected in the ambition set out in Scotland’s Climate Assembly and the Children’s Parliament call to action. 

I’m particularly pleased to see ‘The city centre will be re-imagined as a place for people walking, cycling and wheeling, with excellent public transport accessibility and with the needs of the most vulnerable fully catered for.’ 

I’ve lived in Edinburgh for most of my life and dedicated my career to the environmental sector but even still I was surprised how much events such as Open Streets gave me a different perspective (literally) and helped me to start re-imagining what better could actually look like. 

Ambition, alongside a collective positive but pragmatic mindset is key. This in turn sparks new conversations and ideas with friends, neighbours and online too. 

What needs to be improved in the strategy to give confidence that Edinburgh will be able to achieve Net Zero by 2030?

The challenge with any ambition, is the risk of it falling short on reality, and so the careful and diligent measurement of progress, as its public reporting will be important for the strategy’s enduring legacy. The strategy (perhaps deliberately) seeks to engage across all populations and yet, much of the future effort required to bring the vision alive will be for young people to champion, action and own. 

As with all public documents, despite any care taken, will appear to young people to be something that is not for them. It is imperative that the strategy is publicised and communicated in a way that is relevant, using the channels that they are most familiar with. Materials should span the ages and be age and generation appropriate. 

Young people will be happy to help in this, as they know best what works.
However engagement should go beyond consultation and engagement. There has to be something in this that young people can see is directly relevant to their lives. Making connections to education, jobs and skills are key topics that will engage young people. 

What do you think the next steps to implement the strategy look like or should be?

It is important that this strategy touches where young people are.

The strategy will demand a shift in the social and economic fabric, and there are opportunities to secure wins in areas where investment is already planned for young people. 

With the Just Transition as a key guiding principle in mind the young person's guarantee could be built in. [NB: ‘The Young Person's Guarantee is a commitment to bring together employers, partners and young people. It will connect every 16 to 24 year old in Scotland to the opportunity of a job, placement, training or volunteering with employers committed to the Guarantee’.]

We need to be collectively creating and sharing innovative and creative spaces in which young people can have conversations about the strategy and hear about it using a form and vehicle that is exciting, energetic and engaging. 

Young people want to make a personal difference and want to be assured that the adults around them hear, understand and take notice of their perspective. This goes beyond the City Chambers, it is in schools, youth groups, in colleges and in communities. 

Social media and related campaigns are of course incredibly important to reach a wide-ranging audience but it's still important to have in-depth engagement too. 

What should others outside the council be doing to deliver a net zero Edinburgh? (Or who would you call on, to take what action?)

I really appreciate the blunt sentiment from a young person from a recent report "Adults should keep positive." Member of Children’s Parliament, age 13, Edinburgh. This is particularly important to keep at the front of our minds with Glasgow hosting COP26. 

This presents a powerful window of opportunity to bring about a legacy we can be proud of. I would urge businesses to sign up to the Edinburgh Climate Compact, and think about our future, part of this will be creating green jobs for young people. 

Although the emissions of individuals’ might not seem much, combined, these add up. We can take simple climate actions which together have enormous power and influence over the emissions of our city. There is also a chance to respond to the ‘Draft 2030 Climate Strategy’ online consultation by 12th September.

When thinking about the future with climate change it’s tempting to get trapped in a doom and gloom perspective, but at 2050 Climate Group our outlook is that the future can be better and that young people will shape the future. 

Put simply, we need everyone to do their part with whatever influence they have to get us to a just and sustainable society.