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Climate change, Net Zero and three reasons to feel good.

Monday, March 30th, 2020 / no comments /

Climate change, Net Zero and three reasons to feel good.

I feel uplifted; in a more upbeat mood about the environment and climate change than in a long time.  I feel like we’ve turned a corner.  Maybe, just maybe, we can prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Why do I feel like this?

It’s easy to get down about things, like about the failure of repeated inter-governmental climate talks, about the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement, about what Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall reveals about the fate of much of our recycled plastic, about President Bolsonaro’s desire to burn the Amazon rainforest and reclaim the land for ranching, about the destruction of habitat for orangutans for palm plantations, about the bush fires in Australia and their Prime Minister with his head in the sand, about nurdles pouring into the oceans, about the amount of plastic and rubbish on the side of the road for goodness sake.… Gosh, there is so much to get down about… but there are three things recently that have really made the difference, that have given me this upbeat feeling.

The first and perhaps most significant is the recent decision by the UK Court of Appeal (see the link below).  This is an astounding and excellent decision.  The UK government has been looking to build a third runway at Heathrow.  Much time has been spent debating and planning this project, to increase the amount of air travel through Heathrow, which while we all like to travel, to see the world, flies in the face of the need to reduce carbon emissions and flies in the face of our climate change commitments.  And that is exactly what the court of appeal decided.  The case, brought by a group of councils in London along with environmental charities such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Plan B as well as the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, essentially ruled that the government did not take enough account of its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change when setting out its support for the proposals for Heathrow expansion.  The UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement is a legal commitment. And here it is being legally enforced.  The Court of Appeal must be congratulated for reaching this brave and just decision as must those who brought the case, not just for succeeding in stopping this project and making a big statement, but for bringing hope to so many people, who feel powerless, but who are ready and willing to join in with a civic movement and transition to a low carbon economy.

Secondly, is the inspirational Greta Thunberg.  She has her detractors (for the life of me, I can’t understand why).  But, she has taken her message from the streets, to the schools, to the government of Sweden, to the United Nations. She has shared a stage with David Attenborough, delivering a common message. She has shamed so many adults who quietly share her beliefs to stand up. She has mobilised communities of school children around the world to make their voices heard and stand up for their future.  It is a fantastic movement. And, strangely (and I hope not too patronisingly), I’m so proud of her.

Thirdly, is the event I was at on Wednesday, #CivTechDemoDay in Edinburgh.  CivTech is a technology incubator living in the CodeBase premises in Edinburgh and established by the Scottish Government to incubate new technologies who answer challenges the public sector puts forward.  It has at its heart challenges about the use of technology (it appears to have been the brainchild of the digital directorate of the Scottish Government).  So, what’s this got to do with climate change?  Well, first, I don’t think I’ve been to an event where ‘climate emergency’ and ‘net zero’ were mentioned so many times and I go to the sort of events where you expect them to be mentioned.  It was very clear that addressing climate change was front and centre of government policy and in the minds of civil servants throughout government. And not just adapting to a changing climate (although that is a factor) but abating carbon emissions.  There was Colin Cook, Digital Director at the Scottish government reporting that while this programme included a Net Zero section, the climate emergency dictates that this issue will be even more central in the next programme, CivTech 5.  Then Ben Macpherson MSP spoke, the Minister for Public Finance and Migration.  And what did he talk about? More than anything else, he spoke of the climate emergency and the need for technologies to solve the public sector challenges to make Scotland a fairer, heathier and greener country.  Of the fourteen companies, who were all excellent, five were addressing Forestry Commission Scotland’s challenge that there are not enough quality seedlings to meet the demand for tree planting in Scotland over the next five years.  The solutions were diverse. And practical.  The fourteen companies were great. There are always start-up businesses with new technologies, capable people with knowledge and enthusiasm for tackling climate change, but here they are coupled with government agencies with specific problems to solve.  Some of these technologies are going to be implemented.  It feels like it’s happening.

So, there we have it.  Three reasons to feel uplifted on the topic of climate change and the future.  Let’s hope for lots more of this kind of thing.