We hear much from the Scottish Government about its “ambitious” climate change targets, but the extreme weather we have seen recently, COP26 and the declaration of a Climate Emergency by the UN mean that many of us now want to see that rhetoric backed up by action.
It’s important, however, that we fully integrate our response to the Climate Emergency with the Covid recovery and tackling poverty in Edinburgh. Currently 23% of children in Edinburgh live in poverty, and a decade of constitutional bickering in Holyrood and Westminster means that their plight is side-lined too often. We cannot afford to repeat this mistake in the coming decade.
This will mean that our response to these challenges must focus on people and communities. Small businesses in Edinburgh are the powerhouse of our jobs economy, but adaption will be difficult for some. That’s why the Scottish Government need to fund the Council to better support small and medium sized businesses in the transition to more sustainable practices.
We need to move the climate change debate on from changing one car fuel to another, and think about real change at a city scale. We need to think about how we improve the thermal efficiency of our homes. We also need public sector bodies to work together at a city scale to reduce their carbon footprint.
If we are to tackle poverty whilst doing this, we need to adopt community wealth building (aka “The Preston Model“) as our approach – this is about creating a resilient and inclusive economy for the benefit of all in the local area. This means that we have to look at the “social value” of every contract – with benefits for the local people such as employment, skills, real living wage, environmental impact, and greater wellbeing.
We should not need a Climate Emergency and a Global Pandemic to make us realise that Edinburgh needs to be a fairer, happier and healthier place to live, but it feels like now is the time to act.