Last week, speaking to a friend who will be spending two weeks locked inside COP26, cordoned off from the real world by a 9 foot high wall of security, I suggested that next week’s summit on climate change sounded like a kind of Davos on the Clyde. “That’s exactly what it is going to be,” he replied grumpily. For any self-regarding CEO, aspiring plutocrat, or up-and-coming politician, green credentials these days must be burnished and plumped up. Nobody can prosper on the global gravy train these days without tipping their hat to the sustainable agenda. Therefore, over the coming few weeks, for members of the ambitious global elite (or for any politicians seeking to join them), a speaking slot on a prestigious panel or a seat at dinner alongside Bill Gates or Al Gore is a must. Cop26 is going to be a jamboree of green-flesh pressing; a mountain of organic canapes and sustainable warm white wine.
It’s never good to be too cynical of course and it’s still to be hoped that “Glasgow” will, over the coming few years, become shorthand for a genuinely transformational agenda on climate change that sees real money, and actual plans attached to grand ambitions and worthy goals. But both COP26’s necessary global agenda and its literal detachment from the surrounding city point to a wider problem for the environmental movement. Often we are talking about issues so enormous and on such a lengthy time scale that it is difficult for people to wrap their heads around. This isn’t helped when those issues are discussed and debated by a political and corporate elite who, over the coming days, will arrive like a spaceship from a distant planet. From where I sit – about two miles away from the conference in the southside of Glasgow – the talk of the steamie is less about ambitious climate targets and more about how we’re supposed to get to work, and whether anybody has managed to rent out their spare room for £10,000 a night.
In our own small way, ScotlandCan will seek to address this perception gap in the coming weeks. This website was set up with one big aim – to show how real and meaningful change can happen now in Scotland – to focus, as former Green party leader Robin Harper put it perfectly to us the other day, “on what we can do today, not what we could do tomorrow”. We are here because we have had enough of Scotland living in the conditional tense, with a political establishment focussed only on what we might or could do one mythical, magical day.
So we want to use COP26 to highlight some deliverable and achievable ideas which Scotland can get on with once the security walls and the tented village in Glasgow has been pulled down. To contrast with the distant global agenda of COP26, we want to focus specifically on the local and the community based. What kind of legacy projects should we champion here at home? What action can communities get on with now? The environmental cause should not be seen as something done to us by a few leaders gathering in the chill of Glasgow in November, but something done by us, in our streets and communities.
If you want to add in your own contributions to this effort, please do send them in. We want to set out some positive practical ideas that Scotland can take right now, once the Davos on the Clyde caravan has moved on.
We’d be delighted to hear from you, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.