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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

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Communities can mobilise to fight climate change

This opinion piece is over 4 years old

​Catherine McWilliam believes communites play a vital role in combatting climate change

Nowadays, we are all too aware of the havoc climate change is wreaking across the world; from the wildfires that are devastating Australia, to the unprecedented high tides in Venice last November. Closer to home we have grappled with more of our own extreme weather events with the ‘Beast from the East’, storms Ali, Gareth and latterly Brendan, not to mention a 13% increase in annual rainfall in recent decades.

But it’s not just the weather that has been affected. Much of Scotland’s wildlife is reliant on specific climatic conditions, as are much of our homegrown crops and seasonal produce. And, as temperatures increase, so too do the favourable conditions for the growth and spread of pests and disease. The list goes on, and you could easily spend all day discussing and debating the situation.

The bottom line is that we are facing an existential crisis, and there has never been greater urgency for us all to recognise this. We need to take action to attempt to mitigate the harm that has already been done and to adapt to the consequences that are already inevitable. According to that now infamous IPCC report in 2018, we have only 10 years left to transform the global economy before the damage is irreparable. Everyone has a role to play.

At a Government and policy level, we are witnessing some positive movement. At the SNP annual conference last September, first minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a climate emergency, and pledged that Scotland would live up to its responsibility to tackle it. A bold statement that was one of the first of its kind, and immediately led to similar declarations from both the Welsh Assembly and the UK government. Whist there isn’t a set definition and list of appropriate actions for a climate emergency (the above all have different targets and deadlines set), the statements are backed by public opinion, with a Greenpeace poll finding that two thirds of people in the UK believe there is a climate emergency.

Scotland has long led the field from its UK counterparts when it comes to climate action – specifically around carbon emissions. With a proven track record in the delivery and use of renewable energies, legislation like the Circular Economy Bill, and COP26 taking place in Glasgow later this year, things are definitely happening. But it’s not enough, and its missing a critical success factor: communities.

Scotland has long led the field from its UK counterparts when it comes to climate action

Community organisations have a vital role to play in combatting climate change. Only local people can mobilise grassroots action and there is now massive public support for more radical action on climate change. That is why DTA Scotland and a number of other organisations involved with The Scottish Community Alliance are calling on the Scottish Government to harness the potential of our communities to respond to this emergency, whilst at the same time, pledging to increase our collective efforts to combat climate change. We need support from all levels of government to do this, but critically, we also need support from our sector.

We are asking groups and organisations across the community, voluntary, third sectors and beyond to sign up to our Climate Statement, pledging support and action today to help us hammer home our message that we are committed to action against climate change, to help hold the Scottish Government to account to deliver on its actions, and to support, involve and empower our communities to do the same.

Find out more and pledge your support at

Catherine McWilliam is the Communications Officer for DTA Scotland