Last month [January] I went to one of the 2050 Climate Group’s conferences in Edinburgh. The subject this time was politics, and how we can influence politicians to take action on climate change. We heard from many inspiring speakers including those that attended the COP 23 summit in Bonn late last year, a Canadian negotiator for the international climate agreement, an academic looking into the minds of politicians at Westminster, Adaptation Scotland, a representative from the Scottish Government and more.
From this conference I took several key messages away:
One: To not assume that you know it all.
Climate change affects different sectors and people in different, complicated ways. There is always more to learn. Also, the way that politicians might approach the topic varies, but the majority of politicians in Westminster believe in climate change and want to do something to help. Thus try not to talk down to anybody, politicians included. They are just ordinary people with feelings too.
Two: Think about ‘co-benefits’ and language.
Some politicians (and people) are afraid to use the word ‘climate change’ when speaking to their constituents, as they are afraid that they might seem ‘weird’. Thus in order to get policies through the house, they may use ‘co-benefits’ as a way of selling action e.g. a new cycle path will be good for physical and mental health, air pollution worries, jobs, tourism etc. without actually mentioning the word ‘climate change’. It still gets the cycle path put in, but it is done because it is sold to their constituents and those in parliament in terms that matter to them most – health, jobs, the economy etc.
Three: Get in touch with your elected representative.
Politicians are not often asked to act on climate change from their constituents. Thus just writing an email or going to visit them in parliament will increase the number of times they are contacted about climate change/the environment significantly. It is easy to find out who is representing you, and what their contact details are, just click here. You can also find your Scottish representative here and your council representative here (if you live in Fife).
Four: Do something!
Getting involved in whatever capacity you can is very important. It is one of the greatest ways you can help change happen.
I am part of the 2017-18 Young Leaders Development Programme (YLDP) run by the 2050 Climate Group. This was just one of many interesting climate conferences hosted by the 2050 Climate Group that I have been to. Half of the conference events held are public, so you do not need to have signed up to the development programme to go along. If you are interested in sustainability, are aged between 18 – 35, and will be based in Scotland as either a student, professional, or interested person, I highly recommend joining up to the programme – the next round of applications will be available soon. It is a great way to meet new people in all different sectors that are focussed on one thing: leading action on climate change. Action can be made on a personal, professional, and political level, and everything in between.
Lara Fahey is a young leader on this year’s Young Leaders Development Programme.