Posts by 2050Group

Blog Twenty-Two: National Economic Forum 2017

May 19th, 2017 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

Last Friday, as our new cohort of Young Leaders prepared to travel to Glasgow for the first climate change module of this year’s Young Leaders Development Programme, I stayed up in the Highlands for the National Economic Forum and travelled up to a sunny Inverness.

The event kicked off with an opening address from Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, and a business keynote address from Mark Gregory, chief economist at Ernst & Young, followed by a Q&A session with the both of them. As most likely the youngest person in attendance, it was great to represent all of the Young Leaders in the 2050 Climate Group, and to be able to ask the First Minister a question regarding some of the issues that are important to the group as a whole:

“How will the government ensure that the Circular Economy package will deliver skilled employment opportunities throughout the whole of Scotland?

How will the Curriculum for Excellence prepare the next generation for employment within the Circular Economy?”

Declan asking his questions (Photo from @Aurora_Cons)

The First Minister feels there is a massive opportunity for skilled jobs in the Circular Economy across the whole of Scotland, particularly in rural areas, and Mark Gregory pointed out that already, directly and indirectly, there are 50,000 jobs in Scotland engaged in lowering carbon emissions.

The point about the Curriculum for Excellence was one that the First Minister thought was the most important. With a school system able to produce confident and informed individuals, well prepared for careers in the Circular Economy in the future.

After lunch, I participated in a workshop about the future of energy in Scotland, led by Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, and Nick Molho, Executive Director at Aldersgate Group. With so many people in the room from the energy industry it was great to hear their thoughts on the draft Scottish Energy Strategy, and the ambitious plans for renewables and low carbon energy sources to play their part in Scotland reaching its emissions reduction targets as set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which requires an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the Scottish economy between 1990 and 2050.

My biggest takeaway from the whole event, and the one aspect that fills me with the most positivity, is this: they didn’t postpone it! Let me explain. The date for this 18th edition of the National Economic Forum was set a while back, and this time of year was expected to be a quiet one for Scotland politically. In hindsight, they couldn’t have been more wrong! Despite the event taking place during the run up to a general election, they didn’t postpone it. Instead, the First Minister and 5 MSPs were in attendance, including Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, who kindly spoke at the launch event of this year’s Young Leaders Development Programme. The government saw these economic discussions as vital, and that it was key for the drive towards a low carbon economy to be at the centre of these discussions. This clear demonstration of commitment towards the sustainable development goals, in the midst of a hectic political period, I believe, can give us hope that our ambitions for 2050 will be met.
Blog contributed by: Declan Gallacher. 2050 Climate Group, Operational Team Member: YLDP & Alumni Subgroups
Header photo submitted by Declan, @DeclanGallager
waiting for climate change isaac cordal sculpture

Blog Twenty-One: Climate change isn’t the future, it’s right now

May 18th, 2017 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

The European Climate Change Adaptation conference comes to Glasgow:


“Climate change? We don’t need to worry about that yet. There are more urgent things we need to sort first.” Many of us will have heard this kind of response when raising the issue of climate change. I know I have. And the framing of our climate problem as a long term challenge is often shared by advocates of climate action and those aiming to defend the status quo alike – with the former appealing to our responsibility to future generations and the latter arguing we shouldn’t take action because the future is too uncertain. But the truth is, as many of us know, climate change has already started and its impacts are already ruining people’s lives around the world.

Huge rivers are disappearing in Northern Canada as glaciers recede, roads are melting in India, and even if we stopped all global greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, those we’ve already released into our atmosphere would continue to drive climate change for many years to come. So, as we continue with efforts to reduce the worst effects of climate change, the question arises: what do we do about the impacts we have already set in motion?

This is the question over 1000 of the world’s top climate experts will be looking to answer as they arrive in Glasgow in June for the European Climate Change Adaptation Conference. The conference title may say ‘European’ but the focus is global, with presenters from forty-eight countries and five continents tackling problems from sinking cities to dangerous heat waves to disruption to the food systems we all rely on. The 2050 Climate Group will be involved too, with 2050 rapporteurs and our former chair, Elizabeth Dirth, joining the closing plenary with the European Commission’s Head of Climate Action, Andrea Tilche, and the New York City Mayor’s Office Special Advisor on Climate Policy and Programs, Lolita Jackson.

You can follow all the action across the five days of the conference (5-9 June) via the hashtag #ECCA2017 and students can still apply for volunteer passes to attend in person, helping Scotland continue to lead the way in effective climate action.

And I’ll be there too. In my role as Information Support Officer for the Adaptation Scotland programme, I’ll be joining colleagues in showcasing the progress Scotland is making to become a climate ready nation. Large-scale initiatives are already underway in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow to ensure Scotland’s population, infrastructure and economy is prepared for the turbulent times that may be ahead and there are lots of opportunities for 2050 young leaders to influence Scotland’s adaptation journey, either as part of your organisations or as active citizens in the places you live. I believe, coupled with the strongest efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, climate change adaptation can be a catalyst to help us build a positive vision of the future: one where we don’t just swap dirty technology for clean (although that’s a great start), but instead change the places we live and work, and our behaviour in them, to follow the grain of natural forces. You can see examples of these kinds of transformations in Adaptation Scotland’s Climate Ready Places website. If you’d like help finding out more about the likely climate impacts on Scotland, how they might affect you or your organisation, and what you can do about it, let me know!


Blog contributed by David Macpherson, YLDP 2015-16. Information Support Officer, Sniffer

Contact David:

Image: Follow the Leaders. Berlin, Germany. 2011. Isaac Cordal

Blog Nineteen: The Next Chapter of 2050

April 22nd, 2017 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

When I began the role of Vice Chair of of the 2050 Climate Group, I was 24 years old. I had 2 years working experience in entry level positions. I had never spoken publicly before. I had no leadership experience. I had no management experience. I just had a vision. There was an opportunity in front of me and I had a desire to go for it. Let me be crystal clear here: It takes nothing more than that to be a leader.

Fast forward three years, 2050 is now a multi-award winning, internationally recognised official NGO, and here I am stepping down from this position of leadership.

In those early days, I found myself leading an organisation through its founding days, and some days I had no idea whether we were doing the right thing. I had never done this before, no one I was working with had ever done this before… But also this was partly because we were creating something that didn’t exist.

On the surface, we’re (now) an environmental NGO. We work on climate change. But what we really do is disrupt. We work on change. There’s no model for creating an organisation that’s main goal is to disrupt the status quo, the high emissions, high carbon, unsustainable, business as usual, status quo. When almost every aspect of what you do and how you run is different from organisations that could be your peers, there’s no handbook on how to run this. And when you are trying to do this while simultaneously working on an issue that is an existential threat, that is not taken seriously enough, there is absolutely no guide for how to be a leader in these circumstances.

I have immense gratitude for my peers, mentors, colleagues, friends, co-conspirators, who supported me over the past three years through the challenges of this journey. Particularly, there is something unique in the 2050 team, the way it functions, the sense of commitment balanced with sense of humour, or maybe it’s those 9am weekend mornings, that hooks you in and holds you up at the same time.

What we have become is an organisation that lives our mission, values and purpose. In every aspect of what we do in our operations we try to have a ‘handprint’ (a positive impact) and as small of an environmental footprint as possible. As we find our way through our first year as an official charity, we aspire to find innovative ways of working that demonstrate best practice for how an organisation can function. And I look forward to continuing to be involved in this process.

For me personally, this living our mission is also why the time had come to step down as Chair. If we stand by one of our core values, that leaders can come from anywhere and anyone can be a leader, then our organisation is made up of exceptional leaders, all of which could act as Chair. The experience of being Chair has been the best personal and professional development opportunity that I have had and it was time for someone else to have the same opportunity I feel that I did.

In addition to this, somewhere along the process to become a SCIO we decided to commit ourselves to this value by running with as flat as an operational structure as possible. Our team should be recognised internally and externally for the leadership role that they now play in the low carbon transition and this was the best way to do that.

Note, I said ‘now’. This transition, we are in it, and we, 2050, are a part of leading it, I am confident of that and that we will continue to do so in the future, in Scotland, and further afield.

So, What’s next…

Richard, as our new Chair, and Kerry-Anne, as our new Vice-Chair, bring the knowledge and experience that are exactly what’s needed for the next chapter of 2050’s book. As we are just in the first months of our first year of being an official SCIO, they will guide the organisation through this transition and the second year of our “world first” Young Leaders Development Programme.

As for me, I’ll be getting stuck into delivering the second year of the YLDP – I believe this programme has more transformational capacity than anything else I have ever come across, and I am committed to delivering this to the best of its potential. Not to mention, scheming in the background about how, when and where 2050 takes its first steps towards internationalisation of our model and work.


Elizabeth Dirth, Board Trustee

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