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COP26, Inspiring Scotland and Climate Justice  - Inspiring Scotland


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COP26, Inspiring Scotland and Climate Justice 

COP26 has dominated discussion, media and Glasgow city centre, but how will these international negotiations impact people and places in Scotland? Catriona Patterson, who works on our Creative Communities and Rural Communities Ideas into Action funds, discusses what went on in Glasgow and how it connects to Inspiring Scotland’s vision for everyone in Scotland to have a happy, healthy life, free from poverty and disadvantage.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference brought together an estimated 30,000 politicians, decision makers, organisations, businesses and members of the public to discuss and agree climate action and binding international commitments to address our climate emergency.

COP26 seeks to build on a legacy of negotiations and agreements that have been ongoing since 1995. It is the first major opportunity for nation states to increase their commitments to address climate change since the celebrated 2015 ‘Paris Agreement’, which was the first legally binding international treaty that sought to limit global average temperature rise to ‘well below 2 degrees Celsius’. This summit has been delayed by a year (due to the Covid-19 pandemic), but climate science and the increasing instances of floods, heatwaves and storms have demonstrated the urgent need for increased ambition, commitment and cooperation to reduce this warming even further.

Although these commitments are made at an international and UK level, they have wide-reaching consequences for Scotland and our society. Scotland already has some of the most ambitious climate change targets in the world, aiming to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030, and reach ‘net zero’ emissions by 2045 (eliminating emissions from transport, energy and waste, and increasing the storage of carbon through forestry, peatlands and other nature-based solutions), and our legislation reflects and contributes to this global effort.

“The scale, scope and speed of the transformation that is required and to which Scotland is committed brings significant challenges, but anything less would be to fail our people and planet.”  Scottish Government 

Climate Justice 

COP26 is also notable for its focus on climate justice: the acknowledgement that climate change exacerbates existing social and economic inequalities.

“Climate justice recognises humanity’s responsibility for the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society by critically addressing inequality and promoting transformative approaches to address the root causes of climate change.” Professor Tahseen Jafry, Centre for Climate Justice, Glasgow Caledonian University

At COP26, climate justice was discussed at an international scale – with indigenous groups, small island nation states and developing countries at the forefront of the rising sea levels, deforestation and unlivable temperatures which will forever change their way of life. However, climate justice is also an issue within Scotland: we know already that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our society will be the most effected by climate impacts, and may be the least able to adapt to the consequences. For example:

  • Poorer households will be less able to afford increasing energy and insurance costs
  • The decline of oil and gas industries will disproportionately affect people in North-East Scotland
  • Today’s children and young people will have their human rights impacted by a changing physical environment which threatens their quality of life

The good news is that in addressing climate change we  also have an opportunity to create a fairer, more equitable society. The Scottish Government and organisations in the public, private and third sector (including many amazing charities) are already responding to these challenges through the Sustainable Development Goals, our National Performance Framework, a wellbeing economy approach and a commitment to a just and green recovery from Covid-19. For example:

  • Increasing energy efficiency could also help to reduce fuel poverty in Scotland’s poorest communities
  • Skills, training and education in green industries can provide secure and Fair Work employment for new generations in urban and rural areas
  • Increasing local food production can reduce food poverty and benefit public health

How Inspiring Scotland’s work connects with climate justice

I’m new to Inspiring Scotland, but I already see so many connections between the discussions and stories of success at COP26 and the incredible work undertaken by charities in portfolios across our funds. As a funder and facilitator, there are a number of ways we can support people to respond to the challenges of climate change:

  • Empower communities to design their own solutions. The is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to climate change, with different places experiencing different impacts. Our Rural Communities Ideas into Action fund, Island Communities fund and Link Up fund all invest in people and connections to design grassroots and local solutions for a local context.
  • Enable people to build stronger connections with nature and develop the resilience to respond to changes in our environment. Reconnecting with our physical environment is one of the ways we can personally cope with the wellbeing challenges of climate change. Our Thrive Outdoors programme connects play, learning and the great outdoors for a generation of children in Scotland.
  • Focus on women, disabled people and youth for the protection of human rights. Climate change disproportionally affects the most vulnerable in society, and the poorest – often resulting in higher risks and greater burdens. In creating an inclusive Scotland through the Equalities and Human Rights fund, eradicating violence against women and girls through Delivering Equally Safe, and enabling participation through the Support in the Right Direction programme, we seek to tackle the root causes of this inequity.

Aligning our efforts in a way that benefits people, communities and the planet provides huge opportunities for good. Although we recognise there will be challenges along the way, we are committed to striving for a Scotland where climate justice is achieved. 

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