With the COP26 conference on the horizon, attention is rightly moving from the theory of climate change to the practical steps we can take to mitigate and halt the damage we are inflicting on our planet.
It’s a journey the Green Action Trust, has been on for years – not least of all in our delivery of the Central Scotland Green Network Plan on behalf of the Scottish Government, one of the largest green infrastructure projects in Europe. But, what is genuinely exciting now, is the clear recognition that however valuable the steps we have been taking thus far, bigger and faster strides are required.
As a key environmental regeneration partner of Government, we know the difference that can be made in urban (and often deprived) communities, just as much as across wider rural Scotland. Whether city centre or remote and rural, our nation needs an accelerated expansion of nature and environment-friendly infrastructure as Scotland plots its green recovery from Covid-19 and works towards net-zero targets.
In particular, it is great to see the focus being placed on tree planting. New tree planting is a welcome and deliverable asset in the toolbox of environmental interventions that can transform communities for the better, improving health, economic, social and equality outcomes.
Hugely welcome, then, that Scotland’s new Environment minister, Mairi McAllan, has already recognised the part that tree planting and forestry interventions can play in tackling climate change and biodiversity loss.
Often, in public policy, these individual steps seem to be just that – individual steps. It’s so encouraging to now see that at every turn, whether it is in thinking on town centre regeneration, or sustainable transport initiatives, whether in green space development or action on vacant and derelict land, that climate change and environmental priority is baked in.
If the last year has taught us anything, it is that there are tangible benefits to working together to make the places we live and work more sustainable for the long term – and meeting and exceeding our current targets are critical. Twenty-two million trees were planted last year, a crucial early step in becoming a net-zero modern nation by 2045.
Central belt and urban Scotland has a big part to play in meeting those objectives. In West Central Scotland, the Clyde Climate Forest initiative points the way ahead: aiming for everyone in the Glasgow City Region to be no more than five minutes walk from quality green space, and 20% of city space to be under a green canopy. A transformational and exciting manifestation of changed priorities.
Our charity is at the forefront of that work, but does so in recognition that there is much more to do across the country. It’s a critical national endeavour to meet net zero targets. For us to do so requires every organisation – business, third sector and government – to play its part. As we enter the run up to the world convening in Glasgow in November, there’s no better time to ask yourself, or your organisation, what part you are playing in solving our climate crisis.