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Can Scotland's low carbon model inspire the world?

Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was awarded the Edinburgh Medal last week for her work as a world leader on climate change.

ECCI’s Interim Executive Director, Ed Craig, attended Christiana’s speech and a round table discussion which followed the award ceremony. Here he blogs about the events and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Scotland punches well above its weight on climate change. In 2009, we set ourselves world-leading climate ambitions with the Climate Change (Scotland) Act. Since then, we’ve shown that it’s possible for a country with an advanced economy to make rapid, systemic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, whilst continuing to deliver a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive economy.

Christiana summed it up in her Edinburgh Medal address - well-earned for her huge achievement in bringing countries together to agree the Paris accord - by explaining that Scots are not ‘dour’ but ‘do-ers’.

So where next? And what are the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead? That was the subject of a discussion that brought together key representatives from academic, business, the third sector and government, chaired by Christiana, following the medal address.

The Scottish Government is currently debating new climate legislation which will make Scotland’s 2050 climate target more challenging – a 90% greenhouse gas emission reduction rather than an 80% target. Scotland is close to achieving a 50% cut in emissions compared to 1990 levels, and the power sector is virtually decarbonised. Maintaining Scotland's low carbon leadership now depends heavily on meaningful action in other, more challenging, areas within the coming decade. This includes making our homes more energy efficient, replacing petrol vehicles and changing the way we manage land.

The Scottish Government is committed both to sustainable and inclusive growth – and so is ECCI. That means change with jobs, opportunities and benefits for all parts of society. It also means breaking out of specialist policy, research and industry ‘bubbles’ and working collaboratively together to drive change that is fair and meaningful for everyone.

So how can we make changes on a big enough scale, communicate the benefits of these changes, leverage the massive investment required and bring millions of ordinary people on board with it all?

Next year is ECCI’s ten-year anniversary. We’ve been working hard to break people out of their bubbles – be they academics, business folk or policy experts – since shortly after Scotland’s Climate Change Act came into being. Since then we’ve supported hundreds of climate-friendly businesses, inspired China’s first low carbon college and delivered policy thinking which has informed major Scottish Government announcements – to name but a few of our achievements. All by starting from where the demand lies – for innovative services, products and ways of thinking that will deliver a thriving zero carbon future. We rally people around that vision regardless of their background, industry or area of expertise.

So we’re hugely excited about the opportunities discussed at last week’s round table. The rapid evolutions of smart technologies and big data will drive a Fourth Industrial Revolution that could play a key role in creating a low carbon future. And action on climate drives markets, opportunities and innovation that have huge potential to unlock economic growth.

All those around the table were in agreement that Scotland’s time to lead is now, and there is no time to lose. Can Scotland ‘the low carbon model’ be shared globally to accelerate these necessary changes? ECCI looks forward to continuing to play our part.

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