Jane Morrison works for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and is our guest blogger today. Jane is also a member of Scotland’s 2050 Climate Group and here she gives us her insight into COP21.
A year and a half ago I became a member of the 2050 Climate Group, a brand new initiative in Scotland to tackle climate change. The group aims to engage, educate and empower the next generation of young leaders for action on climate change and does this through delivering the Young Leader’s Development Programme, a year of activities, challenges and modules with both an environmental and leadership focus. Nicola Sturgeon recently described this programme as a “world first”. The encouragement we have received along the way from our partners (including SEPA) has been invaluable in developing the programme.
I remember the first time I met the group at my induction event and how impressed I was with the talent and diverse background of my new colleagues, it was both intimidating and exciting and I couldn’t wait to begin work. Despite my enthusiasm, I would never have believed that so much could be achieved in a year by a group of young volunteers and that we would soon be travelling to Paris to present our vision to the international community at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.
I travelled to Paris by train excited but, in light of the recent attacks in Paris, admittedly I was also a bit nervous about the trip. When I arrived at the conference I was surprised by the surge of emotion I felt, I was so proud that we had been asked to contribute to building a positive future for our planet. When we entered the Generations area where we would present later in the week, we were met with a buzz of activity and colours everywhere.
Side events were run on a variety of topics, stands showed innovations and invited people to share their ideas. There was dancing, singing, music, flash-mobs, artwork, campaigning, networking and so many opportunities to learn something new. During the conference we attended many events, which included learning about climate change adaption in countries all over the world, education and engagement, policy, economics, business and infrastructure.
Our session was presented as part of “Youth Day” in the Civil Society area. Chris McGinnis (chair) and Elizabeth Dirth (vice-chair) of 2050 Group were joined by Dr Aileen MacLeod (Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform) and presented our vision and Scotland’s work to a room of people from all over the world. The session was also watched by more than 250 people online.
Following the session we were delighted to see the interest from the international community in collaborating. For some time I have felt that our movement was contagious but now I could see that people from all over the world were ready to join us in our mission to lead the change. With this support we will be able to extend our reach much further than Scotland.
Anyone who knows me knows what this opportunity meant to me, I have been passionate about nature, conservation and education my entire life. Aside from this, I believe in the 2050 Group and our ability to create change and make a difference in a way I have never believed anything before. For the first time in my life I feel really empowered to do something about the challenges which are presented by climate change; receiving the recognition for this through the invitation to share our work at COP21 was a dream come true for all of us.
President Obama said “we are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last that can do anything about it”. At the time of writing I do not know the outcome of COP21, despite this, I am convinced that we have a society that is actively seeking change and I am determined to be one of the people who helps push this along. I didn’t join the group as an expert in this area, far from it. I’m still learning with the help of the people around me.
I have learnt that climate change issues are not something that we can solve when we feel ready; we aren’t ever going to feel ready as this is a brand new challenge with unpredictable effects. It’s time to jump in and try new things, build networks and learn from others all over the world who are doing the same thing, we may not get it right every time but we will continue to learn from our mistakes. Looking back, I realise that I have been on the road to Paris my whole life but my journey to tackle climate change is far from over, I invite you to join me for the trip.
If you want to learn more about the 2050 group, partners and the YLDP you can at www.2050.scot/about-us/