This week Katie (Campaign Director) and Matt (Campaign Manager) attended the Sustainable Scotland Summit at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. The Summit was put on by Scottish Business in the Community (SBC) and aimed to ‘promote sustainable development as the driver for future economic success.’ The event brought together business leaders, local and national government and community partners to examine and debate how sustainable development can help business, the environment and local communities.
Many speakers described the ambition of Scotland leading the world in a clean energy revolution. Its size, geographical features and the determined personality of its people should certainly make this a reality.
It was fantastic to see the First Minister, Alex Salmond, and the Cabinet Minister, John Swinny, showing such positive support to the Mayday Network and its continuing efforts in Scotland and the UK. Mr Salmond is justly, hugely proud of Scotland’s world leading carbon reduction legislation and its ambitious target to reduce emissions by 42% by 2020.
How better for Scotland to capture the vital essence of their strong stance on climate change than in a special edition whiskey that is 42% proof!? Surely the most sort after tipple of the Low Carbonistas ! The first Minister presented a bottle of ‘2020’ whiskey to a delighted Duke of Rosthay for his leadership on the issue.
Prince Charles then gave a wide ranging speech drawing on his fascination with the natural world and his dedication to its protection. He nimbly connected the dots between ‘the humble honeybee’ the Indonesian rainforest; recently afforded protection due to the his and the Norwegian Government’s intervention; and the behaviour of us in the UK. He said:
“In recent years, we have, unfortunately, been carrying on as if the natural world didn’t matter when, in truth, so many of the problems we face are the result of behaviour which has taken Nature for granted. For too long we have treated Nature like a perpetual cash machine which doles out money without there ever being any need to check the bank-balance. But now, finally, the money is running out. It transpires we have been living off capital – Nature’s capital – and not the interest She generates. In short, we are heading rapidly towards environmental bankruptcy.”
The Prince’s words were given added poignancy by the back drop of a range of stark warnings from nature this year. Despite the fact that 2010 is the year of biodiversity extinction rates continue to rise and World leaders have failed to deliver commitments made in 2002 through the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to reduce the global rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, and have instead overseen alarming declines in biodiversity. Such were the findings published this month in the leading journal Science. Also, NASA has recorded that 2010 is in line to be the hottest year ever. However, ending on a positive note the prince said:
“We must all strive, harder than ever before, to convince people that by living sustainably we will improve our quality of life and our health; that by living in harmony with Nature we will protect the systems which sustain us; and by valuing Nature’s resources properly we will secure all our futures.”
Colin Hines shook up the proceedings with a vigorous warning about how the economy that just collapsed was based on the “3 B’s: banks, boutiques and buy-to-let” and that now we are attempting to solve the problem with the 3 Cs: cuts, cuts and cuts”. He presented an alternative way out of the recession that is a contemporary reinterpretation of Roosevelt’s New Deal.
As a result of excesses in the financial sector the stock market crashed in October 1929 and the Great Depression unfolded. President Roosevelt was bitter and furious with the financial sector. In his inaugural speech in 1933 he said:
"The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."
History may be repeating itself but this time around this time around we have 2 new, additional game changing, and systemic ‘crunches’ to deal with. The first being the energy crunch with rapidly rising energy prices and the second being the climate crunch with the collision of an atmospheric boundary that does not do bail outs.
Neither the energy nor the climate crunch could have been predicted in the 30s when resources were still plentiful and total emissions into the atmosphere were a tiny fraction of what they have been by today. A New Deal refocuses the economy around local jobs for local communities ensuring that people’s fundamental needs are met. This time around a Green New Deal would need to focus on radically improving resource efficiency whilst creating a seismic shift in local renewable energy capacity.
Colin envisions armies of newly trained workers heading out into our neighbourhoods retrofitting existing housing stock to increase energy efficiency and add localized renewables. This huge new source of labour would, of course, need to be backed up by administrators, suppliers, accountants and more; thus creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs driving the formation of a new, healthy green economy. Retrofitting communities around the country may take decades but this effort will be just the first phase of a retrofitting of the whole economy. Transport, agriculture and industry can all be put through the lens of a Green New Deal.
Of course, the companies most able to deliver the knowledge, skills, materials and execution of a Green New Deal are Mayday companies; those at the vanguard of the new sustainable economy.
Alex Salmond said that creating a sustainable low carbon economy presents 'enormous opportunities for investment and growth that Scottish businesses must seize' and that:
“...it is crucial that our business leaders and entrepreneurs understand both the challenges and opportunities climate change presents so that we can work together to ensure a positive future for our economy, environment and society."
Judging by the determination of the royal, political and business leaders present at the Sustainable Scotland and the surge in Mayday numbers north of the border it looks certain that The Prince’s Mayday Network will be at the heart of the emerging new green economy in Scotland.
Matt Mellen (Mayday Campaign Manager)
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