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“You are a part of making a successful future.” – Guest blog by Mike Elm

May 3rd, 2018 Posted by Blogs, YLDP No Comment yet


“Ask not what a successful future can do for you, ask what you can do for a successful future.”


To mis-quote Kennedy, building a successful future – a big part of which will involve tackling climate change – is about helping yourself, but yourself as part of a community, a society, a civilisation, a living-planet.

We need all (lawyers, accountants, engineers, hair-dressers, DJs, painters, builders, bankers, teachers, app developers, designers etc etc.) be involved in creating a successful future because when it comes to climate change, we are all in it together. Yes, some will feel it harsher, sooner but there will not be anyone – under a certain age – who will not be impacted by it.

But forget this reality, stark as it is. Because taking action to tackle climate change is the biggest opportunity to make a successful future for ourselves. And I mean success in the fullest sense of the word.

For me success means high levels of well-being and happiness for everyone. Clean air, good jobs, good health, plenty of free time, delicious food, abundant access to good quality nature. And all this with the knowledge that we can enjoy it and, if we choose to have them, so can our children and theirs and so on.

There is undeniably a long way to go, a very very long way to go, but there are some fantastic movements in the right direction (*cough* 2050 Climate Group *cough*). There’s much to be done. And this really is the opportunity, because no matter your passion there’s a role for you. There is something that you can be part of changing in your workplace, in your personal life, in influencing the politicians that represent you. The 2050 Young Leaders Development Programme, currently recruiting for people just like you, is an awesome way for you to get the knowledge and the skills to play your part.

I don’t, personally, give a damn about making a ‘low-carbon’ Scotland, I care about making Scotland, and the world, better. This will require it to be low-carbon but will be about everything else that success means.

You, no matter your passions, have a role to play in creating this great, exciting, successful, happy future. I look forward to being a part of making it with you and the 2050 Climate Group aka (almost) all of the best people I’ve ever met.




 Mike Elm is a board member of 2050 Climate Group and works for Creative Carbon Scotland as their Digital Communications Officer and is on the Management committee of the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre. Currently fulfilling the 2050 Climate Group’s moustachioed minority commitment, Mike is also known for his snorkeling, table tennis and cycle adventures. Mike was Vice Chair of 2050 Climate Group group from 2016-2017.

Siri Pantzar’s Welcome address at #ESIC2018: “Now go change the world, folks!”

April 6th, 2018 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

Siri speaking at ESIC2018

My name is Siri Pantzar and I am the Chair of the Policy Subgroup of the 2050 Climate Group. 2050 is an organisation that aims to engage, educate and empower young people to take the lead in solving climate change, mainly through our flagship programme which is called the Young Leaders Development Programme. More on that a little bit later though.

First I want to thank Buchanan Institute for this opportunity. I have always been very impressed with the work that Buchanan Institute does in bringing voices of students and young people to new forums and situations. I think, in this Year of Young People, we should all be focusing on how to best involve young people in solving the big challenges of our times. And obviously one of the biggest challenges our world faces today, one of the defining issues for our generation, is climate change, and the transition to a more sustainable society. It is crucial that we young people are included in that. I see two reasons why this is particularly important.

Firstly, because this is the world we have grown up in. The key international agreement for addressing climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, was adopted the year after I was born, in 1992. Climate change wasn’t on my parent’s radar when they were growing up, because the science wasn’t there yet. Our generation has always known that climate change is something we need to address. It is our default setting, which makes us able to see things slightly differently from the previous generations.

Secondly, because we are ultimately the people who will have to deal with the consequences, regardless of what we do. Some projections say that by the time I am 40, the climate will have warmed by 2 degrees celsius. There is no business as usual for us – the world will change regardless of what we do. All we can do is decide what that change looks like.

As I see it, there are two options available for us. We can pretend that we can continue living our lives as they are. This will lead to changes that we have no control over. We all know these: warming, storms, shortages of food, flooding, parts of the world becoming uninhabitable due to drought, or due to being underwater. Or we can take control of the changes: create a more sustainable, clean, low-carbon world, with active transport, different ownership patterns, adaptation solutions, and clean energy which is used efficiently. Neither scenario is easy, because change is not easy; but change is inevitable. All we can do is choose to do the hard work now, or deal with unplanned changes later.

At the Edinburgh Sustainable Innovation Conference we have both older and younger generations gathered together around these issues. I would first like to address the young people, to whom my main message is: go out there. Take chances – those offered to you and those you have to go and seek out. Make mistakes. Suggest things. Question things. Try things. Many things, especially in this country, were designed for a radically different time. We can change them to better suit the time we live in. We need to re-think the ways we live, we work, we travel, we have stuff. So do that. Some of the things you try out will not work, but you’ll know better for next time. Many things will work out much better than you dared imagine. The Year of Young People gives us all a unique platform, a mandate, to do this; and I urge you all to take advantage of that.


Young Leaders David Smith, Cat Wright, Kim Cooper & Dave Cooper delivering a workshop on ‘Visions for 2050’ at ESIC2018.


In many ways the 2050 Climate Group, my organisation, is a prime example of just how much you can get done if you do that, if you stop worrying about mistakes and lack of experience, and just start doing stuff. The organisation was created as a chain of successful experiments: the Youth Climate Summit, then Young Leaders Development Programme, then Young Leaders Development Programme 2. In a few years it has grown from 25 to 60 volunteers and now employs staff, and we have trained over 250 people with leadership skills and climate change awareness.

And this sense of “just go for it” runs through the organisation. This is the third time I ever talk to an audience outside university assignments. The first time was at a United Nations climate conference. Later on, some of the Young Leaders that have recently finished with the programme are hosting a workshop, sharing their learned knowledge and skills. Speaking of that, I asked them what they would like me to say to you all. They said one of the key lessons for them had been that the only way forward is to start doing something. Climate change and the sustainability transition that we need are big challenges and can feel paralysing, but small steps lead to new ways of thinking, which leads to more and bigger steps. So carry a keepcup. Call your MP. Talk to your friends and family. Just do something, and other things will come along.

Finally, I’d like to address those people that don’t feel like they fit in the young people category, because there is an important role for you too. We can go out to find opportunities to be included, but there are spaces into which we need to be invited; so invite us. And not just as token representation, because that’s a waste, both for us and for you. Young people have skills and perspective that you don’t, just like you have skills and perspective that we don’t; we should all take advantage of that. We are natives of systems – coding, internet, social media – that older generations will never grasp the same way; like learning languages, the most creative use comes from childhood learners. We also have different perspective – young people have yet to get used to “how things are done” and thus can show where the discord happens between old systems and new challenges. But in order for us to share that perspective with you, you need to encourage us. Allow young people into all decision-making spaces, amplify their voices, have reverse mentors, and you’ll find new solutions to new problems, as opposed to old solutions to new problems.

If this rings a bell and you want to include young people but you’re not quite sure how, we at 2050 might be able to help you with that. We’ve been running our programmes for several years now, which have resulted in some incredible, active, strong young voices in the field. So get in touch with us, and we can talk about how we can work together. Similarly, if you’re a young person and want to lead in this change but aren’t quite sure how, we have some fantastic stuff coming up right now – our next Summit is on 28th April 2018, we are currently recruiting for new volunteers, and recruitment for the next Young Leaders Development Programme will start soon too – go on our website, sign up to our newsletter and follow us on social media, and you’ll find out about everything that’s going on.

That’s it from me for now. Now go change the world, folks. Thank you.


Siri is an operational volunteer of the 2050 Climate Group, currently acting as the chair of the policy subgroup. The policy team work to provide a vital youth voice in Scottish climate policy.  Siri also works as a Circular Economy Coordinator at SHRUB Cooperative, and in the evenings teaches drumming with Beltane Fire Society. You can read more from Siri on her blog ‘It’s getting hot in here‘, or follow @sirijuulia on Twitter.

Guest Blog: Kitty Dutton on Scotland’s New Climate Change Plan “Is Scotland leading the way to a low-carbon future?”

April 5th, 2018 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

It is here! After over a year of consideration, consultation and debate, the Scottish Government has published their third Climate Change Plan. This hefty 222-page document (henceforth the Plan) outlines Scotland’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a sector-by-sector basis from now until 2032. In some areas it is very ambitious. In others… not so much. But I am not here to provide a point by point analysis of the pros and cons of the Plan, not least because this has already been done by others (notably, the Carbon Brief whose excellent analysis is available here).

Rather, I am going to focus on what the Plan reveals about Scottish leadership in the fight against climate change. A core aim of the 2050 Climate Group is to equip Scotland’s future leaders with climate change knowledge and leadership skills, so that our generation can lead the way to a prosperous, sustainable, low-carbon society by the year 2050 (hence our name). To this end we are creating a Leaders Network, full of awesome alumni from our Young Leaders Development Programme, the success of which is demonstrated by our getting an explicit mention in the Ministerial Foreword of the Plan as an example of young people leading the way to a low-carbon future. But enough self-congratulation. Let’s focus on the Plan itself.

A quick internet search for ‘leadership qualities’ turns up millions of pages detailing the qualities of a good leader. Those with more tend to pick out the nuances of those with fewer, but they fundamentally cover very similar things. To keep things short and simple, I’ve opted here for a list of 7 key qualities of good leadership:



It is hard to fault Scotland when it comes to vision on climate change action. The Scottish Climate Change Act was the most ambitious climate change legislation in the world when published in 2009. Even now, Scotland is behind only Sweden and Finland when it comes to reducing emissions (and may even be ahead, as Sweden does not account for international shipping and aviation emissions, and also allows a certain proportion to be offset through purchased carbon credits, which Scotland does not). By 2050, Scotland has legally bound itself to reducing emissions by 80% against a 1990 baseline and the Scottish Government is intending to publish a new Climate Change Bill which proposes to increase this target, 2050’s consultation called for a target of net-zero emissions. When it comes to vision, Scotland is certainly a world leader.



When it comes to strategic planning, Scotland also shows significant leadership. The very existence of the Plan is testament to this. The Plan outlines key emissions reductions targets up to 2032, with decisions made in line with the 2050 target. Furthermore, each year Scotland takes stock of progress and sets annual emissions reductions targets, ensuring that we stay on track to meet our climatic obligations (compared to the UK Government, which meets every five years).

That being said, while the Plan outlines the milestones we must reach and when, it is lacking in specificity. The destination has been determined but not the route to get there. Rather than a map, the Plan offers guidelines on our options of travel. On the one hand, this is a good thing as it gives us flexibility going forward and will allow us to take better advantage of new opportunities as they arise. On the other, it fails to provide the assurance needed by some to take action and to make the necessary preparations for the journey ahead. After all, nobody wants to invest in a technology or approach without sufficient reassurance that such action will prove fruitful. But more on this later.



Scotland has achieved world-leadership status on climate change action due, in part, to the fact that Holyrood is focused on achieving significant emissions reductions. The Climate Change Plan is not the only piece of climate change policy that Scotland has. Rather it complements the Energy strategy (published in 2017), and various other more sector-specific policies (e.g. heat). The Plan itself provides targets for individual sectors, tailored to their own decarbonisation potential and needs. In all these regards, Scotland is demonstrating focus on tackling climate change.   



I mentioned earlier that Scotland has world-leading ambitious legislation for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It takes courage to stick your head above the parapet and to publicly commit yourself to something that has never been done. However, a courageous ambition requires courageous decisions to be made in support of achieving it, and here the Climate Change Plan finds itself lacking. This is partly because of a reluctance on the part of the Scottish government to commit to any one path, when lower-cost, less disruptive paths might become available. However, transitioning to a low-carbon society is going to require taking risks.

It is going to require trying new technologies and innovations, some of which might not work. It is going to require the Government to make definitive decisions that will serve to reassure investors that the foreseeable future will follow a certain path. Yes, we have to be open to new developments and should not act in such a way that they cannot be explored. But for this to be the case we have to be open to trying new things. We cannot only focus on ‘low- or no-regret’ options, as preferred by the Scottish Government, because such options will keep us tied to the status quo. I fully commend Scotland’s ambition to transition to a low-carbon society at the lowest possible cost and disruption to society, but we must beware of being over-cautious and missing opportunities for fear of making mistakes. As we have committed to ambitious targets, we must commit to ways of achieving these. Here, the Plan is lacking.  



Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have both emphasised the fact that we have a moral duty to fight against climate change. This is as true for Scotland as it is for any developed country that has benefited from the exploitation of fossil fuels. Indeed, it was a Scot – James Watt – whose inventions helped usher in the Industrial Revolution and the burning of fossil fuels on a massive scale. Acknowledging that we bear some blame, and committing to playing our part to right these wrongs shows integrity.

However, integrity also requires that we act in accordance with our public commitments and Scotland’s choice to position itself as a world-leader in climate change action. One area where this is questionable is the government’s attitude to Scotland’s fossil fuel reserves. If international climate change targets (such as limiting temperature change to a maximum of 2°C) are to be met, a significant proportion of global fossil fuels will have to be kept in the ground. It is therefore concerning that the Scottish Government wants maximum economic exploitation of North Sea oil and gas reserves. While an argument can be made that North Sea recovery is more heavily regulated than elsewhere and therefore results in lower lifetime emissions for these fossil fuels, without carbon pricing this is unlikely to have market-wide effects.

I mentioned earlier that Scotland must have the courage to make tough decisions. Fossil fuels are one area where such courage is going to be necessary. Scotland should lead the way in helping those working in these sectors to transition towards renewables, as many of their skills are highly transferable. It should also lead the way in acknowledging that, while transitioning to a low-carbon society comes with many opportunities, it also comes with costs. Integrity requires that we don’t financially exploit our fossil fuel reserves if doing so will compromise our ability to meet climate change targets.  



The Plan has been heavily criticised for being less ambitious in many sectors than in its first draft. Whilst this could demonstrate a lack of courage on the part of the Government, it also demonstrates a degree of humility. While I fully support ambitious targets and strongly believe that we need to be taking immediate action in all sectors to drastically reduce emissions, it is important that these targets are achievable. It is certainly debatable whether the targets have been reduced too much, but the fact that they have been altered following consultation with the sectors that will be affected (and who arguably have a much better understanding of what is achievable) shows that the Government is willing to listen. Even when, as in this case, the result casts them in a less positive light. This, at the very least, shows the targets that have been set are meaningful and not merely a vanity project of an administration paying lip-service to a carbon-conscious constituent base.



Scotland’s climate change ambitions cannot be met without the support of businesses, communities, households, and individuals across Scotland, a fact highlighted in the Plan. Everybody has a role to play and we are all going to have to work together if the targets are to be achieved. For example, much of the Plan is dependent on decisions made by the Westminster government, especially with regard to leaving the EU and future access to energy markets and the EU Emissions Trading System. The Scottish government is therefore working alongside their Westminster counterparts to be included in these discussions and ensure that a viable solution for all can be reached. The Plan shows the minimum role that each Scottish sector must play and the Scottish Government must now work to support them as they go through this transition, as must we.


2050 is our future and it is up to us to shape it and create the world we want to see. Scotland’s Climate Change Plan points towards this world. The 2050 Climate Group is determined to do our part by creating future leaders empowered with the knowledge and skills that they need to be part of the solution and to drive it forward wherever needed. No action is too small, no ambition too great. Now it is up to us to lead the way. 2050 starts now!


Kitty Dutton is an operational volunteer with within the policy subgroup of the 2050 Climate Group. The policy team work to help provide a vital youth voice in Scottish climate policy.  She also works for Delta Energy & Environment as an Analyst and fits in rockclimbing and korfball on the side, too.
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