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Park Talk: Climate Week

28th September 2023

By Hannah Grist, Cairngorms National Park Authority Board Member

Having been on the Board of the National Park Authority for just a matter of months, I feel I should introduce myself to readers. My name is Hannah and I work for Scotland’s Rural College as a Lecturer in Socio-Environmental Systems and I am also Deputy Programme Director of an MSc in Environmental Management and Protection with the University of Edinburgh. I am passionate about conserving the environment, so much of which comes back to one of the biggest challenges of our time– climate change.

I was therefore delighted to be given the task of writing this month’s Park Talk, which is time nicely with Scotland’s Climate Week running from 25 September to 1 October. A Scottish Government initiative, it encourages individuals, communities and businesses to show their support for tackling the climate emergency. This year, the focus is on taking action in the areas that have the most impact on the planet. Did you know that emissions from car use and home heating are the biggest contributors to climate change in Scotland from individuals? Choosing more climate-friendly ways to travel and improving home energy efficiency can therefore be a key way to make a difference.

Simple? For many of us it is tougher than it sounds. Public transport in rural areas can be hit or miss. Not everyone can afford an electric car, and the infrastructure is still developing. Cycling is a wonderful way to travel but a lack of off-road routes can make it feel risky, especially for young people. Living in rented accommodation you have no control over the energy efficiency of the property, and while loans are available, home energy improvements for many homeowners are too expensive to even consider.

We live in a challenging time, and none of us can manage to make all these changes. However, we aren’t looking for perfection – lots of people making small changes is much better than one person living an ideal climate-friendly lifestyle. Walk instead of driving when you can, buy good clothes second-hand, plan out meals to reduce food waste – literally every little helps. It may not feel like it, but together it adds up and makes a real difference.

The Scotland’s Climate Week webpage is full of information about what we can do to be kinder to our planet, whether as an individual, a business or a community. There is a wealth of advice and of particular use to many will be the information on grants that you may be eligible for to help take these positive steps.

We cannot deny that our climate is changing having witnessed the summer’s heatwaves and wildfires in various parts of the world. Even in Scotland, our May and June saw prolonged dry weather leading to high wildfire risk, and we all felt the unusually warm weather in September, recorded as one of its hottest days on record.

As well as what we can do as individuals, we are really proud to be tackling the climate emergency at scale in the Park. We are implementing nature-based solutions, from peatland restoration to woodland expansion, and restoring and enhancing our river systems. And through the Cairngorms 2030 programme we are striving to work with partners to greatly improve the options for greener travel. As an area, the Cairngorms National Park is more than playing its part in tackling the climate emergency.