Since becoming Chair of the Sustainable Scotland Network, I’ve been reflecting on the Scottish public sector’s response to the climate change challenge and to global sustainability concerns.
I believe that we’re at a ‘tipping point’ in the Scottish public sector in relation to climate change and sustainability. The challenges associated with climate change are now firmly in the public arena, and organisations cannot afford to ignore the threat to their continued operations – nor can they ignore the impact that those operations have on climate change and the environment. But our public sector leaders are starting to wake up to the issues and we have to seize this opportunity to push forward ambition climate action and sustainability agendas.
Scotland’s response to global climate change is world leading. We already have some of the toughest climate legislation with ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets – and those targets are about to get even more ambitious. To meet these targets, the efforts of climate change and sustainability professionals within the Scottish public sector will be vital. We manage vast building and vehicle assets, and so it is essential that we strive to make these assets as near to zero carbon as we can. Our procurement supply chains run to billions of pounds, so we must manage responsibly the inherent environmental, economic and social impacts of the goods and services that we purchase.
But perhaps of more importance is our wider influence on Scotland’s householders and businesses. If we can demonstrate low carbon, sustainable behaviours and actions throughout our operations, we will influence and encourage our local communities and businesses to follow suit. Across the Scottish public sector, there are some inspirational projects that have helped to contribute to Scotland’s 49% reduction in emissions since 1990. We shouldn’t be afraid of celebrating these successes and sharing this best practice with others. SSN is currently developing a series of case studies and using its events programme to support this sharing, and our involvement in Scotland’s Climate Week in October gives an ideal opportunity to promote public sector climate action.
So, I begin my tenure as Chair with a sense of quiet optimism. That may seem strange in a world where the IPCC has warned that we will overshoot the 1.5oC global temperature increase within 12 years. But change is happening, and we have an opportunity within Scotland to be a leader of that change. SSN is a well-established, cross-sector, multi-stakeholder community of public sector professionals, with dedicated support from the SSN Secretariat provided by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation and the charity Sniffer, with direct engagement and access to the Scottish Government. I am privileged to lead a Network that is delivering world-class actions on climate change and sustainability, and I look forward to seeing what we can do next.
Kate Dapré, SSN Chair and Head of Energy and Sustainability, NHS Scotland.