Paul Winstanley: Ensuring no one is left behind in the race for net zero: a major new online conference for Scotland

As Scotland gets ready to welcome world leaders to Glasgow for the COP26 summit in a matter of weeks, a partnership of almost 30 organisations from across Scotland’s research, policy and innovation ecosystem will come together on 26 October to deliver a free, online conference, ‘Scotland’s contribution to COP26 – a joined-up ‘Just Transition’.

The conference will explore how tackling climate change and achieving net zero goals can be delivered hand-in-hand with the benefits and opportunities that create a wealthier, healthier and equal society. We will examine not only the speed and scale at which Scotland must move to generate new green economic opportunities and reduce the threat of climate change, but ensure no-one is left behind in the process, be that smaller communities and individual workers, or large geographic regions and entire industries.

By bringing together over 70 speakers and participants from across science, technology, government and a variety of other sectors, the day includes contributions from everyone from senior politicians and policy influencers, to individuals making an impact day-to-day in their own organisations. For example, one of our panel sessions features Prof Jim Skea, Chair of the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission alongside Lynne McEwan of Bruichladdich, Europe’s first B Corp certified whisky distillery, part of a new global economic movement designed to benefit people, communities and the planet.

Our sessions will address important themes such as skills, building a circular economy, empowering young people, reducing the carbon footprint of the building industry, improving health outcomes and delivering sustainable economic growth for the Scottish economy.

There are already great examples in Scotland of how acting in the interests of the environment can also have a positive impact on individuals. For instance, building more energy efficient social housing can result in lower energy costs for occupants, helping to tackle fuel poverty.

Yet, while the urgency of tackling climate issues is only increasing, there is still a gap in turning ideas and debate into reality. To that end, we hope that this conference will serve as a platform to encourage collaboration and action.

Of course, we cannot forget that we need to take everyone on this journey. Retraining our existing workforce, alongside delivering education and targeted apprenticeships for school leavers, can provide the skills required to fulfil the new employment opportunities created by the transition to low carbon.

The benefits of a more sustainable society will span beyond a better relationship between humans and the environment. We shouldn’t ignore the potential for measures that reduce CO2 levels to bring about a range of benefits for wider society, such as better health and living standards through improved air quality and economic growth.

So, please join us on Tuesday, 26 October from 9.30am for this important event. Let’s learn, share knowledge and commit to action by working together towards a ‘Just Transition’. Get the full details and sign up at http://newsquestscotlandevents.com/events/cop26-just-transition/

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