Dark cloud of health crisis can have a green lining

Published date12 February 2021
Publication titleBusiness Insider
ne of the few positives to take from the coronavirus crisis has been the increasingly popular notion that the resulting recession should be taken as an opportunity to aim for a more green and sustainable recovery.

The Scottish Government was already committed to becoming a net zero society by 2045 and adopted a target to reduce emissions by 75 per cent by 2030, so what exactly is required over the coming decades to meet these ambitious targets, while supporting the wider economy?

Covering some of the key areas where change can be implemented, we've asked experts from industry, academia, government and the third sector to explain the practical steps being taken to build back better. COP26 Of course, the eyes of the world will be on Scotland this year, as Glasgow

hosts the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). The event being delayed until this November has given organisers a chance to reassess priorities in the context of Covid. Alison McRae, senior director at the Glasgow

Chamber of Commerce, says there is an aspiration for a local legacy for when the conference leaves the city.

"Through Circular Glasgow and our partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, we are working with companies across the city to support them to adopt new business models, and we're specifically looking at four

sectors where we see huge potential: construction, food and drink, manufacturing and engineering, and events and conferences."

She explains that the pandemic has accelerated some pre-existing trends around remote and digital ways of working, so many businesses have responded in innovative and flexible ways.

"What has notably shifted is the commitment to making a change. We seem to be at a tipping point in terms of businesses realising the benefits of things like closing supply chain loops and investing in green initiatives."

In December, nine walking, cycling, public transport and shared mobility groups formed the Sustainable Transport Alliance, aiming to make reducing private car use a key part of the COP26 agenda in terms of tackling air pollution.

In a joint statement, the group said: "We're working together to support and empower communities, and advise policy and decision-makers,

to help to unlock the great benefits of sustainable and inclusive transport for all.

"We are at a critical point: we must work swiftly to ensure we have our transport priorities right, based on communities and environment, health and wellbeing."

Clare Foster, partner and head of clean energy at law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn, says that the pandemic has fundamentally shifted perceptions - in terms of how people work, shop, travel and even the terminology they're using.

"Covid-19 really has had an enormous socioeconomic effect - and I believe climate change is now being looked at through a different lens. It is now a human rights issue and there's a real determination across the public and private sectors to do things on a more sustainable basis, with a view to creating a more resilient future.

"We need to get cracking now, with real action and tangible results, not just some cursory announcements in the lead up to COP26."

Green energy With the oil and gas industry contributing more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy consumption, the sector clearly has a crucial part to play in coming up with solutions to the current problems.

Political and public pressure does finally seem to be forcing changes more fundamental than some of...

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