While it might only be a 20-minute drive down the road, the world of COP26 can feel a million miles away. A showcase of international leaders we’re more accustomed to seeing on the evening new, representatives of transnational organisations with skyscraper headquarters in New York, and a who’s who of the climate movement – from the passionate young Swede, Greta Thunberg, to David Attenborough.
But what, you might ask, has it got to do with me?
Well, while the focus will be on these international figures, the reality is they cannot single-handedly save us from environmental catastrophe. There is no benign authority ready to halt climate change. No technology that will provide a quick fix. There is only us.
The steps necessary to reduce carbon emissions must come from councils, communities, and individuals. That’s what the First Minister meant when she said “size doesn’t matter” when it comes to climate action. It is the small steps we can all take that add up to something greater. The choice to leave the car at home, to eat less meat, to shop local.
Not only will these individual steps reduce our carbon emissions, but they send a strong message to governments. We are saying loudly and clearly that we are aware change must happen, and we’re ready to embrace it.
Our individual and community actions have allowed the Scottish Government to be bold. We’re just one small and not – yet – independent country. But while Donald Trump was pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement, our little nation was tackling the climate crisis head on. We were the first country in the world to announce a climate emergency, we have a world-leading interim target to reduce carbon emissions by 75 percent by 2030, and we are already producing the equivalent of 90 percent of our electricity through renewables.
Our actions in East Dunbartonshire, and across Scotland, will be a beacon of light in a climate crisis that so often seems miserably dark. I hope it illuminates the issues at hand for the international leaders visiting Scotland. The time for promises, commitments, and vaguely defined targets is gone. We face a climate emergency. It demands an emergency response.
First published in Milngavie Herald and Kirkintilloch Herald