Anna Fowlie says the climate catastrophe is not a nightmare – it's our waking reality and we must act urgently
What keeps you awake at night? For me, it’s usually immediate, day to day things. But every so often the big stuff kicks in. When Covid knocked us for six in March 2020, plunging us into a lockdown and putting hundreds of people in hospital, I had recurrent nightmares about being surrounded by a crowd. What should be giving me – and you – nightmares now is the climate crisis. It might feel less immediate than Covid, but it’s all around us, having a creepingly devastating impact on our planet and therefore our lives.
There’s no vaccine to protect the planet but there’s plenty of science, and we need to listen and act. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t aware that a pandemic was top of the UK’s risk register – and yet the country was unprepared. None of us can say we aren’t aware that climate change is a massive risk, so why do I have the feeling that many of us as individuals or in our organisations aren’t addressing that risk? Adverse weather will become more prevalent over the coming years, with more and more droughts, floods, and storms. This will happen at home and abroad, and the people with least control over their lives, the people voluntary organisations often support, will be hit hardest.
The climate crisis will exacerbate food insecurity – 50% of our fruit and vegetables and a growing percentage of our wheat is imported from countries whose crops are being impacted by climate change. It will increase fuel poverty, impact on transport, affect our health through the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, and prevent access to a range of goods and services we currently take for granted. The biodiversity of the natural spaces that enhance our wellbeing is being diminished every day.
That’s why SCVO has signed up to be a partner in the Climate Scotland campaign, which is aiming to take the voices of 10,000 Scots who care about climate action to the UN conference on climate change, Cop26, in Glasgow in November. The conference is a hugely important step to ensuring that we keep global temperatures below a two degree increase from pre-industrial levels by 2050.
I’ve personally signed up because my children’s future depends on people of my generation taking responsibility for the world we live in now and ending its destruction. The pandemic has shown the power of communities to come together to save lives and livelihoods. We need to do the same to tackle climate change.
I urge you to sign up to the Climate Scotland campaign as individuals and organisational partners and join with everyone who recognises that we need to do more to tackle the climate crisis now.
In Scotland, we have a target to become a country with net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, with a 75% reduction by 2030. That gives us less than a decade and so far, Scotland is not meeting its annual targets.
The Scottish Government, business and all of us need to take more action faster. SCVO is a member of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and fully supports its calls for increased funding for active travel and low-carbon transport, bringing forward a fair and just food system, and action to make it easier for people to heat their homes with renewable energy.
A recent National Lottery Community Fund report reflected on 25 years of investment in environmental projects, observing that “Community action can deliver real impact in terms of Co2, waste reduction and reuse, and redistribution of food, furniture, clothing, toys and material. And in doing so it generates important wider benefits: improving health and wellbeing, increasing community pride and supporting skills, training and jobs.”
At SCVO we recognise we need to do more to support voluntary organisations through the transition to net zero and we will have more to announce on that later in the year. In the meantime, I urge you to sign up to the Climate Scotland campaign as individuals and organisational partners and join with everyone who recognises that we need to do more to tackle the climate crisis now.
Anna Fowlie is chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).