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Commission Chair urges renewed focus on climate goals in wake of crisis

Dr Sam Gardner, Chair of the Edinburgh Climate Commission, speaks out about his hopes for the city's recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

ECCI is helping City of Edinburgh Council to establish the Edinburgh Climate Commission, which is made up of members from a range of organisations across Edinburgh, each bringing their own expertise and knowledge of the sector they represent, as well as their experience in the fields of sustainability and climate change.

Currently Head of Sustainability at Scottish Power, Dr Sam Gardner previously worked at WWF for 12 years and will help guide the Commission in its aim to drive action on the climate crisis and Edinburgh’s commitment to be a Net Zero Carbon Emissions city by 2030.

The following article by was published in the Edinburgh Evening News on Wednesday 22 April 2020. Picture: Neil Hanna.

As the world is rocked by a global pandemic it seems counterintuitive to turn to the crisis of climate change as a source of hope and purpose. And yet, building a better future, a resilient, fairer future, that the response to climate change demands of us all, remains an imperative that must guide us as we emerge from COVID19.

Right now we remain in the eye of this crisis and every effort must be made to protect people and help the most vulnerable. However, we must plan for the city’s recovery and look to rebuild our lives and the economy and in doing so, we must make sure we build a better future - back to normal will not be good enough.

It is with this focus on building back to a better future that the Edinburgh Climate Commission met for the very first time last week.

The Commission brings together climate expertise and experience from key sectors and includes community, civic society, business, youth and academic voices that have all committed to work together to help ensure Edinburgh leads the response to the climate crisis. We must not lose sight of this goal or we risk stumbling from a crisis that can be measured in days, weeks and months to one that will span decades and generations.

In fixing a city wide target of ending our contribution to climate change by 2030 Edinburgh has set itself a stretching ambition. We now need to turn high ambition into transformational action that is backed by communities and business from across the city.

We know that without significantly ramping up action our climate change we will not only still be contributing to runaway climate change but we will have failed to realise the many benefits to public health, community resilience, job creation and the local economy the net zero journey offer us.

In the last month businesses travel patterns have probably shifted for good; months of effective digital remote working is surely going to change habits and must mean we don’t just walk away from online technology and back to red eye flights or expensive commuting habits. Let’s lock in the surge in active travel we have seen in recent weeks so when our options for moving around the city increase the short walk or family bike ride on safe streets is still the number one choice.

These are just some examples of the type of change our collective response to a global crisis has shown is possible, and in a timescale we thought was unimaginable. Others include building community resilience, the importance of local businesses, our dependence on food supply, and valuing wellbeing alongside economic growth. It is up to us all – businesses, individuals and communities – to ensure these changes which support a fairer, greener and stronger economy are embedded into our collective future.

The Edinburgh Climate Commission will be an independent voice for climate action, rooted in the needs of the families and communities across Edinburgh as we look to ensure we don’t move backwards as we come out of this crisis.

Want to know more about the Edinburgh Climate Commission?

The Edinburgh Climate Commission is one of three city based Climate Commissions across the UK in the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN), including Leeds and Belfast. PCAN aims to help the UK meet its climate targets by catalysing cross-sector action and increasing the flow of green finance.