Climate change: Edinburgh must change after ‘code red for humanity’ – Eleanor Bird

At the risk of stating the obvious, City of Edinburgh Council is here to serve the people of Edinburgh – everyone that calls our Capital home.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 4:55 am

I know Glasgow’s already coined it, but I’m proud to say people make Edinburgh and it’s thanks to those that have come before us, that we have the historical, educational and cultural legacy that we do today.

The people of our city also recognise, however, that we’re in a period of change – not surprising when you look further afield at others like us and the similar challenges they’re facing to meet the demands of the modern world.

These challenges are not neat, not comfortable and not easily solved but, as a council, we must balance them against the varied and often competing expectations of the people of Edinburgh as fairly as we can.

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Few issues touch our day-to-day lives more than the air we breathe or how we move around and we have only become more familiar with our local environment during the pandemic.

In those few months last year when a five-mile radius was your universe and you got to know your community green spaces like the back of your hand, the value of the outdoors in even the most built-up areas of our city was clear.

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Be it through our work on the Travelling Safely scheme, low-emission zone or low-traffic neighbourhoods, in Edinburgh we will protect our environment for everyone and, most importantly, those groups that are disproportionately vulnerable to the detrimental impacts of air pollution and the climate crisis.

Active travel, like cycling, cuts carbon emissions and improves health (Picture: Andrew O'Brien/JPI Media)

In a recent letter to councillors, 142 doctors and other health professionals in Edinburgh expressed their support for the retention of active travel measures in the interests of public health and reducing inequalities.

The “code red for humanity” report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cannot be ignored. If governments both locally and nationally do not heed this warning, we will be collectively responsible for passing on a planet that is not fit for purpose to a generation that’s been screaming until it’s hoarse for us to do something about it. “It’s the way we’ve always done it” cannot be tolerated as an excuse to keep doing something.

Like the rest of the world, our eyes will be on Glasgow later this year for the United Nations’ Cop26 climate summit. Scotland will also be hosting the 16th Conference of Youth (Coy16), the UN’s official youth offering for the event. This will place young people at the heart of climate negotiations and provide a ‘statement of youth’, setting out their urgent asks of world leaders and action required to tackle the effects of climate change together.

Youth representatives have expressed that the Scottish government’s backing for Coy16 will likely be considered part of the climate movement’s history and have called for delegates at the summit to unify for change. Edinburgh will not shy away from its role in our shared global aims and, looking to Cop26 and beyond, we’ll continue to take the decisions that will make our city the most equal and sustainable it can be, because it’s not just today’s world we have responsibility for – it’s also the one we’ll leave for tomorrow.

Eleanor Bird is SNP councillor for Forth Ward

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