Blog: Scotland’s towns and the climate emergency

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To Introduce Architecture and Design Scotland’s Climate Action Towns work we reached out to a number of partners across Scotland to write a blog post on how Scotland’s Towns can work to address Climate change. Here Phil Prentice of Scotland’s Towns Partnership outlines how Scotland’s towns can tackle the Climate Emergency

Scotland is host to COP 26. And as we emerge from the hugely disruptive and damaging Covid 19 pandemic, the daily news bulletins and all the science is shifting attention to the Climate Emergency and showing us a planet under pressure and a neglected existential threat. And surely problems of this magnitude require big solutions, or do they?

Perhaps by turning the problem on its head and looking at it differently we could create more innovative and deliverable solutions whilst encouraging wider re-education, participation and behaviour change. Climate Change is already upon us and whilst the biggest contributors to carbon emissions (energy and transport) are being aggressively addressed at the macro level, we are already seeing changes to our precious eco system – leaf unfolding, bird migration, spawning grounds, costal erosion, egg laying, extreme weather events.

But Scotland is blessed with an abundance of natural resources that can help address Climate Change

And as a nation of towns, how can we encourage these businesses and townsfolk to play a vital role in our battle to save the planet and to embrace the opportunities presented by a greener and fairer recovery.

Radical Incrementalism.

If we start with the simple question, “what can I as an individual do” and then ask “what can we as a community do”, we start to open up the art of the possible. And if these actions can be replicated across multiple towns, whilst having a local, direct and highly visible focus, collectively they can have a national impact. The dramatic and unprecedented COVID 19 lockdowns saw global greenhouse emissions drop by 6%. Science is now telling us that we need to reduce emissions annually by 5% for the next few decades, this means everything needs to change. So how can radical incrementalism or massive small deliver for our towns?

Climate Action in Towns

Much of the change has already started. COVID has created new working, educational, living and commuting patterns, much of which will be consolidated. Much can be achieved taking small collaborative steps to embed and build on this return to localism. A good example is the Scotland Loves Local Programme. Supported by a national media campaign, a £10m fund, national Awards and the Town and City Gift Card Platform, it is an attempt to build on the positives created by a pandemic – resilience, compassion, community wealth, awareness of what’s around us and what is precious. In the context of towns, we hope that this programme will lead to more activities such as increased local shopping and markets, more active travel, green and blue infrastructure, circular economy and reduced waste, reduced emissions, flood prevention, drainage, biodiversity, car sharing, electrification, home insulation, Local micro energy generation and storage projects, reclamation of vacant and brownfield sites for tree planting, rain gardens and community growing.

There is growing awareness and a lot of emerging best practice across Scotland. The Core and Halo projects in East Ayrshire, Greener Kirkcaldy, Sustainable Dunbar, Edinburgh and Glasgow’s green transport corridors and low emission zones.

COP26 is potentially the most important global conference in our history. Let’s use this to showcase the art of the possible, a radical approach and the role that towns can play.

Phil Prentice is CEO of Scotland’s Towns Partnership the organisation leading on Scotland Loves Local National Programme Director for Scotland’s Improvement Districts and a Director of the UK High Streets Taskforce.

Updated August 2021.
Image supplied by Scotland’s Towns Partnership, shows a photograph a busy pedestrianised high street with groups of people walking and shopping.

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