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Maree Todd: Communities are playing their part in the fight against climate change

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Holyrood Notebook by Maree Todd

Volunteers from Thurso Grows selling produce at the gardens in Sir John's Square in August. Picture: DGS
Volunteers from Thurso Grows selling produce at the gardens in Sir John's Square in August. Picture: DGS

As I write this column, the COP26 summit in Glasgow, the most important international conference of this century, is in its final days. I’ve been reflecting on the past two weeks and what the talks and potential outcomes will mean for communities and businesses in my constituency.

I’m never shy in telling colleagues to look north for leading, pioneering work. Up here, our instinct is always to think differently and creatively, our ruralness requires us to do so. This leaves us well equipped to innovate and inspire change in the face of the climate crisis.

The recent developments in floating and tidal offshore wind, for instance, demonstrate how we are making our assets work not only for the climate but for our people and local economy too.

On a community level, we’re fortunate to have dedicated community development trusts and community councils across the constituency which are embedding climate action into their activities. The Thurso Community Development Trust is a fantastic example of this, from encouraging low-carbon food consumption through their Thurso Grows project to running their facilities on renewable energy sources, they are a prime example of a community group making a positive difference.

The Scottish Government also recognises the vital role communities can play in our fight against climate change. I was delighted to see two towns in my constituency, Alness and Invergordon, named as Climate Action Towns earlier this month.

Both towns will benefit from Scottish Government funding that will support them in making changes at a local level to tackle the climate crisis. This project will then be reviewed and applied as a model to towns throughout Scotland, which I hope to see the wider constituency benefiting from.

Whilst the focus of COP26 centred around global action, it was also a unique opportunity to showcase Scotland to the world and demonstrate what we are doing to meet our world-leading climate targets. From halving our greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 to funding the restoration of over 25,000 hectares of degraded Scottish peatland – Scotland has a strong track record on climate action, but we know we must go further.

I was pleased to see our unwavering commitment to a just transition reaffirmed throughout a series of announcements from the Scottish Government over the duration of the summit. Key pledges included a 50 per cent increase in funds for climate justice, a vow to sign up to the four per 1000 initiative, a legacy of COP21 in Paris which looks to boost carbon storage in agricultural soils, and a £55 million fund for nature restoration and biodiversity projects.

Right now, we are at a pivotal juncture – we either turn our promises into action and save the planet or we suffer the devastating effects of climate change, where there will be no turning back.

I know from my communication with constituents and from the atmosphere in and around Glasgow during the conference that there is a real appetite for change. The public is demanding action and governments at all levels must do all they can to ensure they do not let future generations down.

After Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, I would like to finish in paying tribute to our veterans, service families and the armed forces community. We are indebted to our armed forces for their service and their support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stay strong folks.

  • Maree Todd is the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

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