Sustainable Scotland Network conference 2014

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Sustainable Scotland Network Conference 2014 – ‘talking tactics’

Introductory comments by the Conference Chair Stuart Nichol, and SSN Chair Rebecca Bell, noted that there is legislation, objectives, case studies, good practice in place to deliver sustainable places that mitigate climate change impacts; but progress is slow – we need to be doing it! The emphasis is on action supported by strong leadership.

The theme for the morning plenary session was Public Sector Climate Leadership. In a change from the scheduled programme, the Ministerial Address (affected by a Cabinet re-shuffle) was delivered by Graeme Dickson, Director-General Enterprise, Environment & Innovation.

The Scottish Government has high ambitions and a deep commitment to tackle climate change; we have set ambitious climate change targets but need to be concerned as emissions have been rising since 2012. Graeme announced the launch of the Climate Change Assessment Tool (CCAT); an e-learning module to promote awareness; and, bringing into force mandatory CC reporting (on what is useful and relevant) with a standard reporting template. There is a public sector sustainable procurement duty to embed sustainable procurement across organisations.

Graeme noted SSN was a great success story, but pace of change is dictated by how we act as individuals and organisations; we all have an opportunity to be leaders. This theme was developed in a subsequent ‘chat session’ facilitated by Elizabeth Leighton that explored the importance of leadership and commitment.

We live in a sweet time; able to catch a plane wherever we want. This is all difficult to give up when the party is going well. We need to find sustainable ways to bring about change and make it part of our normal everyday lifestyle, embedded into behaviours. Adopt small changes and build on them; help people to do things that are sensible; give staff confidence to be bolder; lead by example (e.g. sign up to not flying). We need to encourage a groundswell of public opinion and generate a movement. Leaders are people that do it and encourage others to do it – you don’t need to be a boss to be a leader – so go and be a leader!

The discussion format continued with a facilitated group conversation with James Curran, SEPA CEO, and Drew Hendry, Leader of Highland Council, led by Elizabeth Leighton. Key themes included:

Make it real / promote benefits

People appreciate a need to do something: bring it back to everyday things where it starts to make sense; connect with everyday life. It’s common sense; why would you not do it? We need to demonstrate benefits (i.e. save £s!) and how they can spread wider – e.g. walking / cycling will lead to healthier outcomes; join up the dots – it is all tied together. Layer up arguments; look at wider angles (e.g. possible tourism benefits).

Get emotional

Climate change is a subject we need to be emotional about; it requires passion, belief, personal commitment: understand the environment; appreciate it; care for it. What’s needed: nagging, hugging, screaming! People need to be scared; many people don’t believe – we need to get them believing. Be relentlessly positive; provide solutions; there is a better way!

Authentic leadership

We need authentic leadership – this includes: be honest and self-reflective; from the heart / emotional attachment; be prepared to be challenged; know but don’t preach; lead by example; be firm when necessary – heavy handed intervention may be necessary; embed as normal practice until it becomes second nature. Everyone needs to be involved; it’s down to individuals – everyone is a leader!

Get ‘buy-in’ / build momentum

State high level objective; give people a longer term vision. If we are asking people to make a change they need to know why; set big goals that people will understand and buy into. Reach out first – then people will start to ask: how can I get involved? Do a little everyday; build consensus, push the agenda. Capture attention of locals; raise the profile; get discussion going; build momentum.

Partnership working; make it sexy!

A lot of well-meaning people are getting results on an isolated basis. Work with Community Planning partnerships to reach out across communities and take forward the agenda. Get people motivated; make it sexy, fashionable and easy. Start to enjoy the action of climate change; lever in interest and other funds; accelerate things you can do. Set examples; more publicity about heroes; it’s ok to have fun – if no option then don’t feel guilty! Tackle easy things; build bridges to more difficult things.

Following the morning plenary, delegates were able to attend one from a range of workshops on offer, before and after lunch, as part of the Public Sector Climate Action Zones.

The workshop on ‘Tactical Benefits of Working with your Community’ featured two short presentations followed by discussion in connection with community engagement on the Heriot-Watt Campus; the first regarding environmental energy infrastructure and services, and the second about a community based project (Transition HWU).

Presentations and subsequent discussions considered co-existent ‘climate change/sustainable’ approaches with different ‘communities’: • one, more ‘structured, tangible and definable’ – utilities management; carbon reduction plans; energy management objectives; monitoring and reporting on commitments; business plans; reporting to committees • the second, more ‘bottom-up and softer’ – humanise and make easy and relevant to people; draw people into behaviours; don’t preach – make it possible to enquire and get involved; ‘softer’ ways of encouraging engagement; the word filters out and the network grows; use of social media and face-to-face engagement

The session appeared to reveal a real-life challenge (a ‘Scotland in miniature’) in bringing together and connecting two approaches, which must work together. Concern was expressed about ‘formalising’ the ‘softer’ approach as part of a ‘bureaucracy’; it would become responsible to the governing body rather than a steering group. There needs to be room for ‘creative disruption’. All agreed that early engagement was key and there needs to be space to allow people to express themselves and be leaders in their own way/s.

The workshop on ‘Adapting our Public Estate to the Changing Climate’ offered participants a chance to move round a ‘world cafe’ series of short presentation/discussions. A short introductory session from the Chair, Chris Wood-Gee from Dumfries & Galloway Council, and Anna Beswick, Adaptation Scotland, helped to set the context for the workshop. Key points from the introduction included:

  • Mitigation has been made easier (e.g. by access to ‘solutions’ like solar panels on roofs); adaptation is harder – partly because of timescale and the unknown: what will things be like 50 years from now? It is challenging to make decisions about what may/not happen!
  • The reality is that it is already happening; as evidenced in extreme weather events and long term trends (there is increased average rainfall and temperature; the growing season is 5 weeks longer today than in the 1960s)
  • 85% of what will exist already exists today – we can’t afford to demolish; there is a huge amount of embodied energy; we need to adapt what we have
  • How resilient are we? Can we cope with existing climatic events? (road closures; flooding; heatwaves)
  • Whilst it can be daunting, it also presents positive opportunities
  • By our actions today we have an important opportunity to limit GHG emissions (at present we are on a high emissions pathway)
  • Future weather will remain variable: typical summers will be hotter with heatwaves and droughts, winters will be milder and wetter; there will be a reduction in frost and snow; sea levels will rise
  • There will likely be new pests and diseases; loss of native species; soil quality affected; issues of food and water security; coastal erosion; impacts on cultural heritage and identity; security and efficiency of energy supply
  • Tackling this is not the domain of one agency or sector; it will require holistic partnership action

As part of the world cafe presentations, Lori McElroy and Eric Dawson from A+DS facilitated a session on ‘Retrofit and New Build – Designing Public Sector Buildings with Future Climate Change in Mind’. The presentation and discussion covered a range of scales from wider placemaking to detailed considerations. We need to do the right thing in terms of building correctly; costs of retrofitting and applying ‘eco-bling’ (!) can be considerable – make the right decisions from the outset by focussing on low cost interventions such as orientation and appropriate materials for new buidings and making the best of existing buildings and places – by considering landscape opportunities, thermal mass location in existing buildings. We need new ideas for old places not old ideas regurgitated!

Public bodies have a duty to respond to climate change, supported by a raft of legislation, policy and guidance: e.g. SPP, NPF3, climate adaptation framework and sector action plans. Section 72 of the Climate Change (S) Act 2006 places a duty on development plans to ensure that new development is designed to minimise greenhouse gas emissions policies; this can be achieved through orientation and layout as well as low and zero-carbon technologies.

A+DS has worked with other Key Agencies to draw together guidance on planning and climate change and has facilitated workshops on sustainable placemaking to ask what kind of future do you want for your place?

Cities around the world (e.g. Copenhagen) are seeing the challenge as an opportunity and tackling climate change in a positive manner: thinking ahead to future-proof new development and retrofitting existing places by introduction of street greening, active travel, surface water drainage features and reclaiming the street as social human spaces. We tend to think that these places have always done this better – but Copenhagen’s active travel routes were only implemented 20 years ago. And we don’t have to look abroad for inspiration; a series of Scottish examples already point to good practice:

Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games Village demonstrates a number of climate adaptation initiatives, from a central SUDS feature that builds value and outlook for surrounding housing, porous paving, and is future proofed in terms of its scale should rainfall increase significantly; adaptation of a former city dump to become a parkland setting that supports bio-diversity; creating walkable environments; CHP provision and demanding insulation standards.

Similar features are evident in the Scotland’s Housing Expo in Inverness; however, beware: initiatives need to be followed through to actions! In one house a ‘Trombe-Michel’ wall (heavy mass wall), designed to transfer and modulate heat was ‘value engineered’ and does not function as efficiently as it should; in another a heat transfer system was also eliminated resulting in condensation issues!

We cannot neglect refurbishment as 80% of what we will be living in by 2050 already exists. A+DS has been working with Retrofit Scotland to produce a series of case studies, this includes working with BRE who have created a ‘retrofit lab’ demonstration project on their Innovation Park at Ravenscraig. This involved recreating a traditional inter-war ‘4-in-a-block’ and retrofitting this in different ways. An App allows the possibility of exploring different retrofitting options to determine impact on factors such as: carbon, power, running costs, fuel poverty, etc.

So what does a vision for the future look like? We don’t need to apply eco-bling! The best developments are already integrating SUDS as positive features (not fenced off), they have allotments as active landscape features within developments using rainwater harvesting, ensuring well integrated walking and cycling environments, and working positively with climate and topographic considerations. Good practice exists – we need to promote this more widely: it all comes together in thinking about ‘place’!

The afternoon plenary focussed on ‘Collaborative Action with Ambition, Scale and Pace’ with a presentation by Ewan Mearns, Senior Manager, Scottish Enterprise (on behalf of Linda Hanna, Managing Director, Strategy & Economics Team at Scottish Enterprise; taken ill). Ewan noted three key messages from the earlier presentations: 1. Authentic leadership (lead by example; enable others to act; be open to challenge) 2. work as a team (build momentum; have a shared game plan) 3. have courage to set ambitious goals.

To create a more sustainable Scotland, ideas need to translate into action. Change is not happening fast enough, and needs to accelerate; how? Ask: Are partnership groups doing the right things? Are we ambitious enough? Are we aligned to make critical mass happen?

We must not get bogged down in process, lose clarity, energy or sense of purpose. We all have a responsibility to review our partnerships to make them work more effectively; to increase ambition, scale and pace of action. We need to ask: how can we shake things up to ensure Scotland will meet its climate change targets? We need to change mindsets; have disruptive management; generate strong alignments to explore opportunities and provide new innovative solutions. Connect up activity across Scotland and learn from international examples.

It makes good business sense to take a longer term view; we have low carbon business plans, now engage people; mainstream it and embed it as part of what we do. Shift the focus from talking about climate change to action. We are the most important agents of change; ask: how can we accelerate our pace of change? Are we doing enough? Are we doing the right things?

The Conference round up and final comments were provided by Sylvia Gray, Sustainability and Energy Officer, East Dunbartonshire Council, and the Conference Chair Stuart Nichol. Key themes highlighted included:

  • How to win hearts and minds?
  • Everyone is a player AND a leader
  • Scare people and be disruptive
  • Champion 2 wheels rather than 2 wings
  • Networking and knowledge exchange to share best practice
  • Change is not easy and efforts may take some time
  • It’s easy to get lost in policies, proposals and programmes – it’s about people!
  • Passion and personal ownership – get involved
  • We all have something to take away and apply
  • Feel empowered – enjoy it!

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