Sustainable city means working together in unity - Liz McAreavey

With some relief and a degree of caution we begin to see light at the end of the Covid 19 tunnel.

Monday, 5th April 2021, 7:00 am
Liz McAreavey

Whether our mind set is to build forward in a very different way or a return to some kind of normality, we may also reflect on what our plans for the future look like and how we use the pandemic as a catalyst for change and improvement.

Much has changed during The Great Pause, as life as we knew it was put on hold. The virus has forced a rethink of what is important in society, our personal lives, our businesses and our communities. Many issues have been exacerbated during the pandemic – including mental health, poverty and inequalities.

Yet in these dark times, one issue which has become even clearer is the need for our future to be more sustainable. We need to protect the world we live in. And Scotland will take centre stage this year as the world gathers to plot a better way forward.

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COP 26 – the 26 th meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference – takes place in Scotland in the first half of November, hosted by Glasgow. For the first time in five years, parties are expected to push for more ambitious targets in the battle against climate change.

Edinburgh Chamber has been asked to help organise the Capital’s business participation in the event, to showcase the ambitions for our city – to be net zero carbon by 2030, 15 years ahead of the target for Scotland. It is a hugely ambitious target, and with just 12% of the city’s emissions coming from the public sector we know the goal is simply not achievable without business playing a major part. We will be announcing our plans for COP 26 in the very near future.

If we are to meet the city’s target we all need to do more, faster. For example, we need to reduce transport emissions 12x faster each year between now and 2030; we need to treble the current rate of reduction of carbon emissions from homes, and to do that we need to increase the installation of technology like smart meters 50-fold. The investment required runs to billions.

If the scale of the challenge is truly enormous, so are the potential benefits. Energy savings will run to hundreds of millions of pounds each year, hundreds of new jobs will be created throughout the next 20 years, and our environment and our air quality will improve. We will be safer and healthier.

Business supports the sustainability agenda. We as a Chamber are seeing a growing number of organisations engaging on sustainability projects and issues and taking initiative to lead the way on their journey to net zero. Businesses are committed to exploring how they can rebuild in a greener, fairer and more sustainable way.

As well as established businesses that are championing the transition to net zero, there are innovative start-ups bringing new ideas to the table and driving the low carbon solutions needed for the future.

Discussions are ongoing to look at areas of sustainability in which Edinburgh can seek to lead the world – at how we can rebuild a sustainable hospitality and tourism industry to make Edinburgh the World’s Greenest City destination; at how we can focus on sustainable finance and investment; and at how we can create more sustainable events, something which our world-renowned festivals are looking at with great focus.

We recently established the Edinburgh Business Resilience Group, a stellar collective of business leaders from a broad range sectors and sizes, determined to force a stronger, more collegiate relationship with government. Every aspect of the recovery and future resilience narrative embeds Inclusion, net zero carbon and enterprise as the core considerations. Considerable energy, experience and commitment is being harnessed across the city. This is a major opportunity for the capital city of Scotland to come together to showcase its leadership and green credentials in what is

becoming the most important issue of our new future.

We will only deliver our ambitious targets if we all work together.