The voices of Scotland's young climate activists should bring a sense of urgency to Holyrood's efforts in cutting emissions, writes Ruth Harvey, co-convener of Scotland’s Climate Assembly

WE have officially reached “code red for humanity”. The Glasgow Climate Pact agreed at COP26 last month is a small step in the right direction. But we need to move much further and much faster to meet this critical moment. The Scottish Government’s response to the recommendations of our Climate Assembly is expected before Christmas. The Assembly’s report sets out a program of cutting-edge policies that would significantly reduce our carbon output and bring a host of social and economic benefits. If backed by enough political will, these innovative and realistic proposals would put Scotland on a strong footing for generations to come.

They would at last put into practice our country’s rhetoric of providing global leadership on climate. Education for all ages needs to be at the heart of what happens next. The changes we need will reach far into all of our lives. Scotland’s Climate Assembly has made it clear. If these changes are to be truly democratic, we need citizens to be properly equipped to make the decisions that can drive change. Stepping up climate education is a key goal agreed by the Assembly’s members, a ‘mini-Scotland’ with over 100 members broadly representative of the country in terms of age, gender, household income, ethnicity, geography, rurality, disability, and attitudes towards climate change.

These citizens have set a target for our Scottish Government to: “Provide everyone with accurate information, comprehensive education, and lifelong learning across Scotland to support behavioural, vocational and societal change to tackle the climate emergency, and ensure everyone can understand the environmental impact of different actions and choices.” This is a major undertaking, and members spotlight key drivers for achieving it, including the need to deepen public understanding of the climate emergency. They point out the opportunity for a big cultural shift on energy efficiency to be driven by heightened public awareness.

They call for public information campaigns on sustainable diets so that key facts and options for changing to a lower-carbon diet are accessible to people of all ages. Young people are at the heart of the report of Scotland’s Climate Assembly. The Assembly established a world first among such citizen bodies by involving children in its work, with over 100 children aged 7-14 across the country taking part as climate investigators. Scotland’s children and young people bring a marked sense of urgency to the question of how to tackle the climate emergency. As eleven-year-old Maya, a climate investigator with the Children’s Parliament from the Highlands, says: “I’ve never known a time when the climate emergency didn’t threaten my future. I can’t see a world without it. It’s something me and my friends are growing up with. We need to teach children and adults about more sustainable ways to live – the more people that we teach, the more people will care. It's our generation that climate change is harming most.”

The Assembly’s report establishes 81 recommendations from ordinary citizens to achieve 16 key goals all of which were agreed by overwhelming consensus. The recommendations address a wide range of issues, including domestic heating, agriculture and land use, transport (including air travel), taxation and education. The Assembly’s proposals have been backed by over 100 major organisations and prominent individuals across Scottish society. Signatories to Scotland’s Civic Charter on Climate, which launched in the run-up to COP26, include national Makar Kathleen Jamie and world-famous crime novelist Val McDermid, as well as the likes of Edinburgh City Council, the University of Aberdeen, Oxfam Scotland, the Iona Community, WWF Scotland and National Express. The Assembly’s Statement of Ambition, agreed by all members, is a bold declaration aimed at the whole of Scottish society, from government to businesses, communities and individuals.

“As a nation we have the opportunity to be pioneers, by taking immediate action to empower our next generations to lead sustainable lives by setting up the framework now,” Assembly members write. “If we fail to act now, we will fail our current and future generations, in Scotland and across the world.” The Children’s Parliament has called on the Scottish Government to make sure children and young people have the information they need about the climate emergency here in Scotland. Tens of thousands of children and young people marched through Glasgow’s streets to call for bold climate action. Scotland’s youngest citizens are engaged, and ready to play their part in our ambitious next step in creating a greener, fairer country. The climate investigators of our Children’s Parliament, several of whom also spoke at COP26, have done inspiring work, and they’re calling for what they learned to be paid forward so that the rest of the country can understand the big changes that lie ahead.

As Margaret, twelve-year old Children’s Parliament Investigator in the Western Isles says: “It’s up to you, me and all of us.”

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This article was brought to you in association with Scotland’s Climate Assembly