The recent severe flooding in England, Wales and parts of Scotland has put climate change back in the headlines. Families forced to abandon their homes, local economies crippled, and even the sad spectre of looting all show how climate change can devastate communities.
It’s easy to despair. However, when I think of how we respond to climate change, I don’t just think of disaster or overwhelming challenges. The practical things we need to do to reduce our carbon emissions can empower and strengthen communities.
As Earth Hour enters its 8th year, it strikes me just how large the network of people calling for action on climate change has become. Last year, hundreds of thousands in the UK joined people from across the world in a powerful reminder of the scale of the global movement demanding action on climate change. This global movement has been incredibly frustrated by the lack of progress at international climate talks, but having increasing success in local initiatives such as Transition Towns.
There are things I think we should be doing right now in Scotland to support community action. In our energy policy, we should be putting community-ownership at the forefront. The move to green energy shouldn’t just benefit huge energy companies – it should provide an independent income and energy supply for communities and councils.
The lack of serious action on transport is the biggest weakness in the Scottish Government’s climate plans. If we really want people to shift from the car to public transport, we need to make it the best option available. That means affordable, accessible and reliable trains and buses, and a big shift in government spending to make that happen.
As someone who has recently traded their bus pass for a bicycle, I would like to see much greater investment in cycling. It’s green and healthy, but unless we make it safe and easy too, most people will be discouraged from giving it a try. There is no need to reinvent the wheel – there are great examples from all across Europe of how to make cycling work, but we need a step change in funding.
This blog was written by co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie MSP.