Green New Deal News

Scots firms urged not to forget climate crisis and go low carbon

A LOW carbon charity helped businesses and householders across Scotland prevent 250,000 tonnes of CO2 last year – an increase of almost 30 per cent on the year before.

Changeworks, which is based in Edinburgh and Inverness, also reported a 24% increase to 3,500 in the number of organisations – including small and medium businesses – it helped to cut their carbon footprint, reduce waste or deliver renewable energy projects.

However Covid-19 has fuelled a huge spike in single use plastics and paused projects including the roll-out of a deposit return scheme for coffee cups trialled in Edinburgh this year.

Teresa Bray, Changeworks chief executive, said COP26 – the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference due to be hosted in Glasgow next November – would help focus minds on the climate emergency.

“We’re seeing on the news just yesterday that 2020 is going to be one of the warmest years since 1850,” Ms Bray said. “COP26 will certainly focus minds, particularly for the business sector. This is going to be a world conference that Scotland’s hosting and we’re going to be very high profile. So as businesses, we all want to be able to stand up and show what actions we’re taking.”

Ms Bray said the 250,000 tonnes saved in carbon dioxide last year – up 29% on the 2018/19 figure – was equivalent to the emissions of a population the size of Wishaw and was a lifetime saving.

“If you insulate your home, your office or your buildings, you don’t just make the savings in one year, you’re going to be making those savings over the lifetime of the building,” Ms Bray explained.

She said the financial savings that carbon reduction can generate for small businesses was demonstrated by Changeworks last year when it switched its own fleet of vehicles to greener alternatives.

“We did a review for our fleet, and moved to electric cars and hybrids and looked at our leases,” Ms Bray said. “And not only did we cut the emissions of our fleet by a third, but we also saw an 11% cut in the cost of our fleet.”

The environmental charity’s consultancy services include helping organisations quantify their carbon footprint and translate the findings into a practical action plan. It also helps businesses introduce carbon monitoring and assess the benefits and feasibility of investing in renewables. Changeworks is the delivery partner in South East Scotland and the Highlands and Islands for two loan schemes to encourage small and medium businesses to invest in energy efficiency and renewable measures. These are delivered by advice network Home Energy Scotland and include the Resource Efficient Scotland SME loan scheme, which offers interest free loans of between £1,000 to £100,000.

Changeworks’ other 2019-20 highlights include supporting the installation of 258 low carbon and renewable technologies, including solar panels and heat pumps, and helping 71,500 households become more energy efficient – 30% more than in 2018-19. The charity also supported 3,700 people in fuel poverty.

Changeworks says around 25% of people in Scotland – more than 600,000 households – live in fuel poverty, with vulnerable people most affected. Plans for the year ahead include expanding Changeworks’ support in the Highlands, where fuel poverty levels are highest. In 2019, Scotland committed to eradicating fuel poverty by 2040, with the introduction of the Fuel Poverty Scotland Bill.

On single use plastics, Ms Bray said: “The whole issue of single use plastic is a problem that hasn’t gone away. It’s actually become much worse with the pandemic. When the vaccines are rolled out and life returns to some kind of normality, we are going to have to double down our focus on how we reduce the use of single use plastic.”

Changeworks is a partner with the City of Edinburgh Council and sustainable campaign specialist Hubbub in Our Edinburgh #InTheLoop, an on-street recycling scheme that introduced 58 new recycling points to Edinburgh city centre in February. These include 42 yellow plastic bottles and cans recycling bins and 16 orange coffee cup recycling bins. Plans to extend the scheme to other spaces such as cinemas and airports were interrupted by coronavirus.

Changeworks said its 150 employees and 80 volunteers engaged with 36,500 people to achieve the impacts set out in its 2019-20 report.

Scotland is committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2045, five years ahead of the 2050 target for the UK .