Great appetite for change over climate crisis - Liz McAreavey

Many people have been engaged in addressing climate change for decades, our beloved Sir David Attenborough has been at the vanguard of protecting our planet and environment for as long as I can remember.

Liz McAreavey is Chief Executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
Liz McAreavey is Chief Executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

And now, as we are seeing weather patterns change and cause immense disruption and damage, and following the recent ‘red flag for humanity’ report by IPCC, suddenly there feels a greater sense of urgency and responsibility.

Climate change is not a crisis that we can ask others to solve. Passing the buck in the face of the global challenge that we are all confronted with is one of the biggest barriers to success if we are to pass on a sustainable world to future generations.

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Scotland’s hosting of COP26, the UN’s Climate Change Conference, saw world leaders gather to hammer out a deal to tackle the huge complexity of resolving the climate change crisis. No doubt history will judge their efforts, but we all have a role to play.

Edinburgh has set an ambitious ‘Sustainability Strategy’ with a target of net zero by 2030. The transition to achieve this target needs to be fair, and must ensure jobs, sectors, people and communities are not left behind.

The role being played by businesses in meeting Edinburgh’s ambitious net zero target was the central theme of a two-day Summit held by Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and the City of Edinburgh Council in the Capital during COP26.

It was a fascinating two days, hearing from expert speakers across 4 key themes - Green Finance, Green Tourism, Greening the Built Environment, and Green Food and Drink. But what was most encouraging was the contribution and participation of the audience who enthusiastically asked questions and shared views and experiences. It was also a great example of the Chamber and the business community working in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, shaping a single voice for the city and building a better understanding of a range of perspectives and challenges.

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More than 750 businesses, organisations and individuals registered to participate across the various strands of activity, including almost 190 who registered for the Summit. Hundreds more viewed our events online, and in the week leading up to the Summit, our website at attracted more than 12,500 new users. The appetite for change is certainly here.

Business can help lead the way, and it is encouraging that Edinburgh’s businesses have shown a desire to work with others to create a greener, better future. It is heartening to see that our country and our Capital is playing such a big role. Our universities are world-leading in their research, our banks and financiers are helping drive environmental change by targeting “green finance.” We are finding better ways to build. Our infrastructure businesses are pivoting away from fossil fuels and leading the transition to renewable energy. Our farmers are moving to more sustainable practices.

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Our travel, hospitality and tourism sector are working on innovative ways to make Edinburgh a world-class green destination.

There is a huge amount of work already being done by our corporate community and we need to harness this knowledge to share with SMEs, communities and the third sector to ensure we push the pace of change and deliver our ambitions. The economic opportunities are immense, and Edinburgh as a knowledge economy can take a global lead.

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No single sector can tackle climate change alone – but a collaborative effort involving every one of us can deliver real, sustainable, change for the better.

Liz McAreavey is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce