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Why we all need to be carbon literate – especially our leaders

8 September, 2021
By Catherine Gee, deputy chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful

Overcoming the climate crisis is a collective challenge, one in which we must all play a part.

The coronavirus pandemic caused us to pause the lives that we knew. It made us slow down, do things differently and rethink almost everything.

Many people, including myself, had more time to connect with and appreciate our natural environment, with others perhaps connecting for the first time – hearing birds chirping or noticing insects pollinating plants in gardens and parks as we took our daily exercise.

So how do we build on the connections made to nature during lockdown, and how can we support others to make that connection for the first time?

For me, appreciating and being aware of our natural world is critical to developing empathy and impetus to combat climate change, which is threatening so much.

“The time for political posturing and delay has long since passed. Governments the world over must step up with rapid and decisive action, putting the needs of our planet before economic gain”

The eyes of the world will be on Scotland this autumn as global leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26 – and the stakes could not be higher. This could be the last chance to agree the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions which will help to save ourselves, nature, wildlife and our planet from the devastating impacts of irreversible climate change that we are already being exposed to.

The time for political posturing and delay has long since passed. Governments the world over must step up and agree how we’ll reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. More than that, they should follow this with rapid and decisive action, putting the needs of our planet before economic gain.

Yet, while tremendous pressure is quite rightly mounting on our leaders to drive the change we need, they alone cannot solve our problems.

Overcoming the climate crisis is a collective challenge, one in which we must all play a part. We need to work with people from the ground up to help them connect with their environment and nature if we are to have any chance of achieving the required changes.

I believe passionately that we need everyone to understand the climate emergency and navigate the changes and challenges ahead – to become carbon literate so they can understand the carbon footprint impact of their own activities and identify where they can most effectively take positive action. Only once armed with understanding, knowledge and confidence can we expect people to do something meaningful.

“This could be the last chance to agree the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions which will help to save ourselves, nature, wildlife and our planet from the devastating impacts of irreversible climate change that we are already being exposed to”

COP26 is undoubtedly a remarkable opportunity for Scotland to showcase its push to tackle climate change, not least its world-leading target of net zero emissions by 2045.

More than that, it provides the perfect chance to have a conversation with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours about the future of our planet; inspiring us to question, learn and share so that we radically reduce carbon emissions and protect nature and wildlife.

Through Keep Scotland Beautiful’s climate emergency training, we have supported over 3,000 people from across the spectrum of civil society to become carbon literate, accredited by the Carbon Literacy Project – our strategic partner in Scotland. These individuals are now empowered with accurate information and motivation to support behaviour change to tackle the climate emergency.

This is the first step to helping people make the connections between our climate, themselves and nature. COP26 should be a catalyst for climate conversations to intensify. If we all take time to learn about the issues and what we can do, and share that with those around us – inspiring them to act – imagine the positive impact that we can realise.

Global challenges are not unachievable if tackled together.
The pressure is on politicians to secure a positive result from COP26. But let’s not wait for them to solve this crisis alone. We all need to be climate ready and connect with nature. The time to act is now.

At COP and beyond:
• We need world leaders to immediately ensure that they are carbon literate.
• World leaders must ensure citizens are provided now with accurate information about climate change to empower them, and motivate and support behaviour change to tackle the climate emergency.
• World leaders must support people to connect with nature if citizens are to value our environment and understand the consequences of the climate crisis.

 

Find out more about climate emergency training

Our ambition is to gather 10,000 voices from the people of Scotland.

We’ll take them to COP26 to send our leaders a message: that we want strong and meaningful commitments to protect the things we love, and to make a better future for us all.

Show our leaders just how much you care.

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