In the week in which the UKCCC reported on Scotland’s achievement against climate targets, RSGS and the ECCI ran a highly ambitious conference called ‘Bitesize’ to plan how Scotland could make the greatest difference to global greenhouse gas emissions reductions (Friday 9th September).
Drawing on experts, academics and practitioners from governmental and public sector bodies, businesses, NGOs and local authorities, RSGS Chief Executive, Mike Robinson, along with ECCI’s Andy Kerr, SCDI’s Ross Martin, and Scottish Government’s Helen Mansbridge, gave an overview of the bigger picture and key ways Scotland could show leadership. The purpose of the day was to take a positive solutions-led approach to help make action happen, to encourage consistency and cooperation across sectors, and to explore those areas of work which could help Scotland hit its own ambitions and help developing countries avoid pursuing a high-carbon trajectory of development. There was a palpable buzz in the room from the start, with delegates meeting new faces from other sectors, and a really positive energy to help take meaningful action and take the initiative in reducing emissions.
Specialists discussed Agriculture (especially reactive nitrogen and food waste), Transport, Efficient Buildings, Heat & Energy, Industry and the circular economy, and the role of Sustainable Cities and settlements, in sector-specific workshops, and planned a series of next steps (key messages and activities aimed at target audiences). Each workshop was facilitated by academics and expert practitioners with a scribe to capture actions. John Sturrock of Core Solutions then challenged participants to focus on delivering these actions and reminded them of the need for urgency, before Tom Mitchell spoke about opportunities within the European-wide Climate-Knowledge Innovation Centre, in which he co-ordinates the UK arm.
To close, and as a sanguine reminder of the international need for leadership, we were joined by M Laurent Fabius, former Prime Minister of France and President of Paris COP21 – the chief architect of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. He spoke of the importance of ratifying and delivering against targets, and the opportunity in showing leadership. It was a powerful and insightful contribution to a thoroughly positive and inspiring event. Later, at an event at Edinburgh Castle, RSGS presented Laurent Fabius with the Shackleton Medal for his leadership in negotiating the Paris Climate Change agreement, the most ambitious climate deal to date.
Fabius was insistent : “It is critical that as many nations as possible ratify this agreement and then work to help deliver their promises. This is the most important issue we face.”
ECCI and RSGS will be producing a short film on the conference, and RSGS will publish a future edition of The Geographer around the themes and actions that have sprung from it, in addition to the specific sector-specific actions that arose from the workshops. And we will be presenting Shackleton Medals to two other key players in the Paris COP21 – Manuel Pulgar-Vidal and Christiana Figueres – hopefully later in 2016.
RSGS Chief Executive, Mike Robinson in introducing M. Fabius, said : “Scotland has shown great willingness and leadership around this issue, and I believe can benefit by doing even more. It’s been fifty years since scientists told politicians about climate change, and 21 since the first UN climate change meeting in Berlin. Those nations that are now signing up to the Paris agreement will need to learn from each other to deliver their commitments. Scotland has a great deal of expertise and example to share and there is great opportunity in doing so.”
ECCI Executive Director, Andy Kerr, said: “The palpable buzz at the Bitesize Conference speaks of the huge opportunity we have in Scotland both to take the next steps at home – and so support Scotland in meetings its challenging carbon targets in ways that also deliver social and economic wellbeing – and abroad, where our know-how can contribute to wider social, economic and environmental goals of cities, states and regions around the world.”