We only have one planet. It’s a simple and increasingly inconvenient truth for all of us. The UN International Panel on Climate Change reported on October 12 that we had just 12 years to save the planet.
The report focused on the work required to reduce carbon emissions to hold the global temperature rise to 1.5C. Taking actions to meet this challenge is an obligation that falls to all of us as individuals and policy-makers. While it’s a huge task on a global scale, we can break down the issues to local level to better understand how we can each be part of the solution.
Last month I spoke at a “One Planet” event in the Capital setting out our city’s plans of how we’re grappling with this issue.
The council has taken a sustained approach to reduce carbon emissions in transport and is continuing that effort. Expanding zero-carbon transport with a huge expansion in the city’s bike hire scheme (1000 bikes by Christmas), 200 new electric charging points for EV vehicles, three major cycling investments in Edinburgh being developed and built right now, a low-emission zone, tougher environmental standards for taxis and bringing a final business case on the tram extension on March 14.
All of these investments are driving change in how people are getting around our city and choosing low or zero-carbon options. Success is almost completely reliant on each of us using the private car less and taking advantage of public transport and active travel options. It’s encouraging that so many people in Edinburgh already take the bus, walk, cycle and take the tram and train but we shouldn’t be complacent. With the scale of the environmental challenge we face, all of us need to look at our choices and make any improvements we can. The council will continue to invest in these positive alternatives to make them easier to fit into our lives but businesses also have a responsibility to encourage their customers and workforce to make those positive choices and take action that lead to change.
We don’t always think about how we heat our homes but the gas boilers we use also contribute to the problem. It’d be unrealistic to advise you to keep your boiler turned off (this is Scotland after all!). However, the council is continuing to invest in our public buildings and publicly-owned housing with a £153 million programme in our school buildings alone. Much of this investment will help make our buildings more energy efficient but the scope for new thinking in new developments can be transformative.
The development of the waterfront is the biggest opportunity to have development which is community focused, economically vibrant and environmentally kind. By applying “One Planet” principles to the waterfront we can create a sustainable future for our city and become a world-leading force against the battle of a rising global temperature. It’s also worth remembering the positive. Scotland has largely decarbonised the electricity network by expanding renewables and we can meet the broader challenge too on climate change.
At the “One Planet” conference, a sustainability expert gave the stark warming that a 4C rise in the global temperatures would see Leith condemned to the same fate as Atlantis. As the temperature rises, weather will become more extreme and while Leith will remain afloat with a 2C temperature rise, the difference in impact of a 2C temperature rise as opposed to a 1.5C rise will lead to a direct and significant impact on our way of life in Edinburgh.
The climate change deniers have been conclusively proven wrong and have finally stopped sprouting their “flat earth” thinking. I have no doubt we can meet our obligations to future generations if we as a city and as individuals make the right choices now.
Councillor Adam McVey is leader of Edinburgh City Council