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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

Blog Eighteen: An Interview with Lynette, our Scottish Renewables Award Finalist

April 13th, 2017 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

Lynette Purves, Board of Trustee and Renewable Energy Lawyer at Burness Paull, speaks to her employer about the 2050 Climate Group and her recent Scottish Renewables Young Professionals Green Energy Awards Nomination. 

This past year has been quite some year?!

Yes, indeed! If someone had told me 12 months ago that one year later I would be trustee of an award-winning climate change charity, presenting to the United Nations at their flagship annual climate change conference in Marrakech, and a finalist at this year’s Young Professionals Green Energy Awards, I certainly would not have believed them. But that’s the power of the 2050 Climate Group – they are engaging, educating and empowering Scotland’s future leaders to take action on climate change.

Tell us about the 2050 Climate Group. How did you get involved?
It began with an email inviting me to join the 2050 Climate Group – an exciting new organisation, run by young people for young people, which aims to engage, educate and empower future leaders to take action on climate change. These were talented young professionals across a range of industries – accountants to asset managers, entrepreneurs to engineers, and surveyors to solicitors. They were running their inaugural Young Leaders Development Programme, offering the skills required to lead the way to a low carbon future. As a passionate renewable energy lawyer, I knew I wanted to get involved.

The programme comprised a number of weekend conferences teaching the solutions to climate change – covering the energy we use, the transport we take, and the food we eat. We also practised leadership skills so that we could use our knowledge to make a positive difference – not just in our own lives, but in the lives of our social and business networks too.

When the programme came to and end, I knew I wanted to stay involved and help run the programme for a new intake of young leaders the following year. As a newly appointed Board Member of the 2050 Climate Group, my first role was to use my legal skills in assisting the group’s transition from an unincorporated organisation into a registered charity, a status we successfully achieved this February.

You mentioned you presented to the UN – how did that come about?
As a big surprise! Just as the first Young Leaders Development Programme was drawing to a close, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) got in touch inviting the 2050 Climate Group to present at their forthcoming conference in Marrakech. Sharing my experiences of the programme, as well as those of my fellow young leaders, with the global climate change effort was really exciting. We were overwhelmed by the support for our work and the number of people asking how they could replicate our model in their own countries.

So what’s in store for the 2050 Climate Group’s future?
The group is busy organising our second Young Leaders Development Programme, which launches later this month. We were delighted with the number of applications received – more than 350 (over 100 more than last year) for the 130 spaces, which goes to show just how passionate the young people of Scotland are about shaping a sustainably successful future.

Following our experience with the UN, we are also looking towards international expansion opportunities.  Whilst Scotland can certainly lead the low carbon transition, we cannot tackle climate change alone, and our ambition is therefore to launch our young leader programmes all over the world.


Read the original article here. 

Blog Seventeen: Youth at the Heart of the UN Negotiations

November 8th, 2016 Posted by Blogs, COP No Comment yet

It’s a pretty existential question to ask two weeks before we fly from Amsterdam and Oxford to Marrakech in Morocco (emitting much CO2) to attend this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP) as civil society observers.

Individually, we have no real influence. We have no official voice. We are not decision-makers at the UN level or executives in large companies. We cannot make agreements happen a certain way. We cannot even make Ministers or Heads of States make agreements happen a certain way. But we do have a vision.

The choice is not whether we adapt to climate change, but how

No matter what happens, in Paris, or Marrakech, or at COP23 or any future COP, our world will be fundamentally altered by the reality that is climate change. Whether we continue with our ways as we always did and have to deal with levels of adaptation to climate change never before achieved by human civilisation, or whether we successfully transition to a low carbon world, there will be no business as usual option. We will be faced with a fundamental change of human society either way. This situation is very difficult to grasp.

Either we successfully transform our society, our energy systems and our way of life into one that is not only low but even ‘net-zero’ carbon, thereby significantly reducing emissions to zero quickly, or, we wait too long. We allow ourselves to be paralysed by short-termism and indecision of how to move forward and we end up taking drastic measures in a reactive way in order to adapt to our changing climate and changing home, unprecedented in the history of our society. There are certainly scenarios in between these two extremes, but the future is somewhere on this spectrum. We must expect a dramatic change in our way of life in the coming decades.

Even more difficult to grasp is that as ‘millennials’ these changes will happen in our lifetimes. Contrary to the narratives of some governments and businesses today, climate change is already happening and can be seen everywhere in the world. There is no such thing as business as usual in our world today.

The ‘millennial’ generation is positioned to rise to the challenge

The only way to not become paralysed by the fear of what the potentially disastrous future scenarios might look like is to accept the complexity of the challenge we are facing. We must wholeheartedly embrace the fundamental change and move forward. There is no part of our society that is more personally, socially, economically, and ethically invested in climate change than today’s young people – in every walk of life.

Our generation wants a low carbon world. We will be the ones living in it, we will be paying for it through our future taxes or consumer choices, we will be responsible for normalising use of it in our behaviours, we will have to fix it and upgrade it. We are, in this sense, not just an important stakeholder: we are THE most important stakeholder in the climate change negotiations.

However, our world continues to justify its short-termism through the mainstream narrative about the future and climate action. The more we frame climate change as a future problem, the more we create a cognitive distance of the public that allows us and our elected representatives in particular to continue to justify our inaction. Therefore, there is a conflict between promoting the narrative that prioritizes future generations and the behavioural ramifications of it. Because of this there must be an important distinction, between this future generations narrative and the real issue: considering future generations requires action in the present to integrate them into decision-making. In this way, there should actually be no distance between discussions about future generation’s impacted on by climate change and present action.

Our mission at COP

So what does attending COPs as an observer have to do with all this?

There is no-one better able to move beyond today’s short-termism than young people. However, current perceptions of young people engaging in this arena start and finish with an image of an activist or campaigner. We do not attend COP to campaign or demonstrate. In fact, it is precisely the opposite. We attend COP to show that there are young people that are ready, willing and able to participate constructively in the decision-making process, understanding and accepting its limitations while at the same time actively working towards solutions.

“We cannot wait to be given legitimacy. We need to legitimize ourselves.” We are in Marrakech to continue what we started in Paris and earlier to carve out our legitimacy in this world of international climate change discussions, multilateral negotiations and global governance arena. It is our firm belief that the only way that anyone in the history of humanity has been able to gain sustained influence is by building a courageous vision and showing the drive to achieve it steadily, but surely. The COP22 in Marrakech represents another vital opportunity to refine this vision, and play our part in ensuring we take the next crucial steps towards making it a reality.

By Elizabeth Dirth and Alexander Pfeiffer, delegates for Young European Leadership (YEL) at the COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco. Elizabeth is the current chair of the 2050 Climate Group, and Alex is a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School.

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