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Scotland’s new Environmental Council team will help us tackle the climate emergency

The First Minister’s Environmental Council, which was announced last week, aims to keep Scotland at the forefront of tackling the climate emergency and ecological decline.

Iain Gulland | 30 Aug 21

The council will meet regularly to discuss issues including biodiversity, marine resources, waste, and the nature-based aspects of climate change. 

The Government committed to appoint, within the first 100 days, environmental experts from around the world balancing international experience, the youth voice, and topical awareness.

The new group will be chaired by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Professor Sir Ian Boyd, who previously advised the UK Government. Dame Ellen MacArthur is also part of the group, as is wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan. Both Ellen and Gordon are high-profile and vocal contributors who I am sure will help bring the council’s important work to light. 

They will present their proposals in a report at COP26 in Glasgow in November.

The rate at which society is burning through resources (both figuratively and literally), means our current way of living is unsustainable. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), landmark study this summer has been described as “a code red for humanity". The cost of not changing the way we live will ultimately be far, far higher than the cost of making the essential changes we require.

To truly end our contribution to the climate crisis, we need to rethink how we consume in Scotland.

Around four-fifths of Scotland’s footprint comes from the products and materials we manufacture, use and throw away. The average Scot consumes 18.4 tonnes of materials every year – that’s the equivalent of 50kg per week on average. The evidence is clear. Consumption in Scotland is unsustainably high.

This is, in part, due to the quantity of things we buy. We need a system wide change that enables us all to choose more sustainable ways to live, use the things we need and share resources equitably?

We know that a circular economy is one of the solutions as it promises to maximise value from the goods we already have in circulation while relieving pressure on finite natural materials, like oil and precious metals. 

Implementing the principles of the circular economy at a scale needed to tackle climate change and global resource scarcity will not happen overnight. Given the systems and financial mechanisms that have evolved to support the linear economy, dislodging it will require a joint effort from all sectors – from individuals to designers, industry, and governments – but by doing so we will build back better, generate new opportunities for Scotland from inward investment to new, ‘green’ jobs.

These are issues that Zero Waste Scotland has been working on for some time and we will be engaging with the Environmental Council and expect to offer our insight in how to grow our economy while at the same time, cutting waste, reducing our demand for raw materials and working towards a more sustainable future.

I am confident the talent and expertise on the new Environmental Council will make a significant contribution to tackling the climate emergency and helping us deliver on Scotland’s commitment to hit net zero emissions by 2045.


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