As you can imagine, here at Changeworks we’ve been watching closely as climate change edges up the policy agenda. Government declarations of a climate emergency signal the power of public demand for action. But what happens next? 

We spoke to our Chief Executive, Teresa Bray, about what climate leadership looks like in Scotland and how we keep up the momentum following these historic declarations. 

What do you want to see in response to the climate emergency declarations? 

People, especially young people and activism groups like Extinction Rebellion, have been very effective in applying pressure and raising the issue of climate change. We’ve got to keep the pressure on politicians. We cannot stop now. 

The Scottish Government has declared a climate emergency and made a commitment to achieving net zero carbon by 2045. Now they need to put policies in place and realign funding to support this goal. 

Net zero sounds quite daunting! Is it realistic? 

It is realistic, but action by individuals, government and business is required. Policy challenges and individual inaction might result in it not being achieved, but there’s no practical reason why not. 

Scientists have raised the bar, activists have raised the profile, and now the ‘Net Zero’ report from the UK Committee on Climate Change has given us further confidence that net zero can be achieved. If we want to make it happen, we can. There are technological solutions, but they are only part of the answer. 

The ‘Net Zero’ report says, ‘clear leadership is needed, right across Government, with delivery in partnership with businesses and communities’. What does good climate leadership look like? 

Everyone needs to act. People need to recognise the scale of the change – it’s not business as usual. There needs to be leadership from politicians, obviously, but they need our support as well. 

Organisations such as Changeworks, who deliver practical solutions, need to be bold and clear about the fact that those solutions exist. In this way, we can turn pledges into action and move beyond pilots and demonstrations with effective, coordinated activity across the country. 

What is Changeworks’ role in leading and supporting the response in Scotland? 

We can help people and organisations make carbon savings. We’ve got to continue to provide that support. By telling our story, we can give politicians confidence that their policies can be translated into action to combat climate change. We can also give people confidence that it is worthwhile to carry out works in their home or change their behaviour. It really does make a difference. 

There’s a strong community of organisations in Scotland with a mission linked to tackling climate change. How do you think we should be working together? 

We’ve got to step up our game. We’ve got to be more prepared to speak out and engage more with stakeholders and the people we support, and share best practice on the things that contribute to tackling climate change. 

By working together we can make a difference. 

What do you think are the biggest opportunities? 

Climate change is moving higher up the agenda and people are wanting to do something, so there’s greater capacity for us to provide real solutions for people. 

And the biggest challenges? 

We’re talking about something that’s not immediately tangible. People may think they have time to delay change, or that governments can delay their response. 

One challenge is that we don’t have a static policy agenda. It’s changing all the time, so we don’t have a clear shared goal for all sectors of society to work towards. A constantly changing operating environment for renewables and energy efficiency makes it much more difficult to engage with households and businesses. 

How do we ensure declarations translate into actions? 

There’s a lot of nitty gritty work to ensure the policy framework supports delivery. We need sticks as well as carrots, so there’s got to be regulation to support activity. One of the major actions we could take now is to regulate for improvements in the energy efficiency of our businesses and homes. 

On areas such as diet and active travel, we should scale up and encourage positive low carbon behaviour. 

Climate change is going to have such a significant impact on all aspects of society, so we’ve got to widen the breadth and depth of our activity, or efforts will just be sticking plasters. 

What excites you most about what could happen next? 

That a low carbon society has significant wider benefits to everybody. If we improve energy efficiency there will be less fuel poverty, if we promote active travel we’ll be fitter and healthier, and if we look at our diet we’ll be healthier. We’ll enjoy life more. 

To find out more about our work or to work with us to tackle the climate emergency, please get in touch.