A New Message from Eco Savvy

Get Political: Big Climate Conversation

On Thursday 19th September Eco Savvy held a Big Climate Conversation in Brodick.

This event was held on behalf of the Scottish Government in order to hear peoples’ climate change opinions and included a discussion about ways the local community can reduce the emissions that cause climate change, and prepare for a changing climate. The event is part of a series of Climate Conversations initiated by the Scottish Government and are taking place all over the country.

Feedback from the conversations is reported back to the Climate Change policy team at the Scottish Government so this could be a very direct and powerful way to get Arran folks’ environmental opinions and ideas heard and, we hope, may actually inform future policy.

Please read on to learn what was discussed:

Participants were asked to write down the word or phrase that comes to mind when they hear this statement and share why they wrote what they did:

  • Confusion
  • We need a seriousness of action – Scotland has declared and emergency we need to see the action that reflect the emergency
  • We need to aim for a net zero planet by 2030, not 2045 – the climate crisis is not being treated like an emergency
  • Climate injustice – deforestation and poisonous gases in cities adversely affect more vulnerable in society
  • We require a sense of urgency and mobilisation
  • Oil and sea levels are a concern
  • Time is running out – we need action urgently
  • Drastic, urgent, reactive and daunting
  • More extreme weather incidents
  • Big corporations use the greatest amount of resources and create the most emissions
  • Urgent action needed rather than words – Government, all about profit and not caring for the environment
  • Need less prevarication
  • Less Brexit! – half the effort put into Brexit and put it into climate change instead
  • Need a change in economic priorities – both governmental and individual
Word cloud showing the most used words from the discussion in larger font

Participants were asked their views on this target.

It was generally agreed amongst attendees that the target is far from ambitious enough.

The group were given cards showing a number of societal changes that experts have suggested Scotland will need to adopt in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2045. These are a few of the most often suggested changes but blank cards were also provided for other suggestions:

Participants were asked to split into groups and to choose 2 or 3 of the activity cards to discuss.

Groups had a conversation about what they thought were the most significant challenges in achieving each of the changes they selected and then fedback to the rest of the attendees what was discussed:

Group 1 felt flying less would be beneficial but would offer significant challenges in adoption. They were in favour of a carbon tax on flights and wanted the Scottish Government to withdraw backing for the expansion of Heathrow. They also felt that diet could pose challenges in that people should be adopting a diet that is more local and factors in seasonality. It was felt education around these issues is needed. Group 1 also discussed the need for electric vehicles and reuse instead of buying new, throwing away or even recycling.

Group 2 were interested in the environmental savings around insulating homes and buildings but the fact that a lot of Scotland’s housing stock is old is a significant challenge. They also felt that flying less would have a big impact on the environment. 

Group 3 also discussed the need for, and also the difficulties in getting people to fly less. They felt significant environmental savings could be made by improving Scotland’s housing standards, for example, through legislating specific environmental standards such as triple glazing as standard on new builds. Cars were also an issue discussed with a sharing culture being suggested through schemes such as car sharing/pooling.

Group 4 discussed the topics that they felt were more achievable, the biggest ones being addressing domestic waste issues, working on making homes and buildings more environmentally efficient and increasing the use of renewable energy.

Participants worked as a group to rank the actions according to priority and discussed the following questions: 

  • What actions do you think Scottish Government should be prioritising – and why?
  • How can Scottish Government help people to take action themselves?
  • Do you think there are any other priority actions missing from these cards?

Each group’s priorities can be seen in the pictures below:

Additional suggestions and comments from attendees:

1. Support the move to introduce ecocide as an international law.  CEOs of large polluting companies could then be held to account. 

2. Any foreign aid to be directed towards the many planting schemes in the 3rd world.  Trees grow quicker in the tropics plus money goes further. Schemes like Tree Aid and Plant a Tree.  

3. I’ve always felt that there’s a great similarity between ecological processes and long-term  economic ones, but we are so caught up in short-term politics that very few people think very far ahead. 

4. Instead of taxing people who take more flights we should tax businesses who make a lot of travel by plane.

5. Acknowledge the importance of Blue carbon, the need to protect it as a store of carbon, but adequate funds (like planting trees) to re-establishing blue carbon such as seagrass which can be re-planted or encouraged to re-establishment or farming of algae (seaweed rather than salmon).  

Whiting Bay has a seagrass bed stretching 4km & Pirnmill has a seagrass bed stretching about 1.5 km along the shore. Sequestered carbon 35x more than the amazon rainforest, right on our doorstep !!

Some additional info:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-43049001

https://news.gov.scot/news/blue-carbon-forum-launched

https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/blue-carbon

https://www.napier.ac.uk/about-us/news/seagrassresearch

6. Don’t forget that if you can’t plant a tree plant a shrub. Don’t be obsessed with a tidy garden.  Left to her own devices nature will regulate the climate and allow life to flourish. 

Research says that we don’t have 12 or so years to act, but that major changes need to happen in the next 18 months. We are already seeing lots of tipping points in many more extreme weather events and temperatures rising annually, and so the targets the government has set for 2030 and 2040 feels scarily too late.

Summary

The need to plant more trees was high priority for all groups, as was the notion of boosting a circular economy and reducing consumption. The further development of renewables such as wind, tidal and the development of new technology was viewed as a positive step for Scotland, and a great opportunity for jobs which could counteract the decline of North Sea oil extraction in a bid for Scotland to move to a more progressive and environmentally aware industrial sector.

A big outcome to note was that all groups found it difficult to rank climate actions in order of priority as they felt that all actions were important. Whilst some actions might be more achievable, some might have a greater impact. There were also discussions around how some actions were lifestyle choices (e.g. flying, change of diet) and the difficulty in getting people to change their daily habits to accommodate these changes.

Many people in the room felt that they were making changes to their lives but that the Government should be doing more to legislate to protect the environment. There was much frustration that not enough is being done quickly enough and that there is much talk, without meaningful action.

There was a lot of discussion around the extent to which climate action should be the responsibility of individuals or pushed on a Governmental level. The conclusion being that everybody must be accountable to a degree. It was generally agreed that businesses are guilty of damaging and exploiting the environment and should be made accountable. There was anger that the Government is not taking greater action on climate change despite declaring a “climate emergency”. It was strongly felt by several attendees that the Scottish Government, and some ministers in particular, prioritise the wishes of the business sector over communities and the environment.

The need for education was also highlighted, particularly in schools. Some children and parts of the community are aware and informed of issues surrounding climate change, whereas others aren’t. It was felt that this needs to be addressed.

Thank you to everyone who attended. We are extremely grateful for the time you took to join us in Brodick to give us your views. 

Eco Savvy will be submitting feedback to the Climate Change Policy team at the Scottish Government on Monday 7th October so if you have anything to add please email your comments to ruth.ecosavvy@gmail.com and we will include these along with our submission.