Outer Hebrides Climate Beacon

by DailyBriefers
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‘Climate Beacons for COP26’ is a Scotland-wide collaborative project which draws together climate change and environmental organisations alongside arts, heritage and cultural groups to stimulate long-term public engagement in the lead-up to and following COP26.

One of these ‘Climate Beacons’ is based in the Outer Hebrides, where the following groups (and others) have come together in a new partnership to inspire public engagement and positive action in the run-up to and beyond the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, taking place in Glasgow this November.

  • Western Isles Libraries
  • An Lanntair
  • Taigh Chearsabhagh
  • Ceolas
  • Community Energy Scotland
  • NatureScot
  • TSI Western Isles
  • Adaptation Scotland
  • The Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership

The partnership is one of seven hubs across Scotland supported by Creative Carbon Scotland. Alongside the Outer Hebrides Climate Beacon, there are six other Beacons being set up across Scotland – including projects in Argyll, Caithness & East Sutherland, Fife, Inverclyde, Midlothian, and Tayside.

The Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership

The Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership (OHCPP) recognises that climate change is happening now and that it is going to impact our economy, our culture and our lifestyles. We know that how we choose to respond will impact the future generations on our Islands.

In 2012, OHCPP agreed to a Climate Change Declaration – committing all partners to reduce carbon emissions by 3 per cent every year. This was a positive step forward but in order to contribute to meeting the Scottish Government target of net zero emissions by 2045, the OHCPP agreed that there is a need to accelerate the approach taken.

As a result, a new Climate Change Working Group was established, with broad representation from public bodies throughout the Outer Hebrides. The Climate Change Working Group is working with Sniffer/Adaptation Scotland and local communities to develop actions and targets around climate issues, for subsequent inclusion in the OHCPP Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP).

Outer Hebrides Climate Beacon
Outer Hebrides Climate Beacon

Whilst climate change is a global issue, its impacts on Scotland and in the Outer Hebrides are already apparent. We can expect to see more extreme weather events in the future, so we need to take steps to reduce our own carbon emissions and get ready to respond to a changing climate and environment.

The Climate Change Working Group is therefore working towards improving our understanding of climate change in the Outer Hebrides and developing actions and plans which will help us to adapt to the changing climate for the benefit of the community, the economy and our natural environment. As part of this process, we have been seeking opportunities for local engagement so we can hear directly from people throughout the islands.

One of these engagement activities is an exciting mapping project managed by Sniffer/Adaptation Scotland, which is taking place in North Uist. Based at Liniclate Library, members of the local school and community are invited to look at maps of the area and share their feelings about what climate/weather changes they may have experienced living in the area, how they may have been affected by climate impacts in the past and what they would most like to protect from future climate changes. The results will provide a detailed, intimate and invaluable record of the significance and impact of climate change on the people of the Outer Hebrides.

Western Isles Libraries

For Western Isles Libraries, the Climate Beacon has provided the perfect impetus and project for the service to focus on empowering local residents and communities to engage with climate change – including talking about the issues and thinking about what they could do to make a difference. The climate emergency will impact everyone, but it is so easy to feel either overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue or to think that it doesn’t affect ‘us’.

For the Western Isles Libraries’ contribution to the Climate Beacon, the service is planning a range of activities to help with climate conversations. ‘Climate Corners’ filled with a range of books for all ages, will be established at each library – topics will include plastics, recycling, climate and weather, biodiversity and diet, among others.  Interactive engagement displays will also be created alongside encouraging people to think about ways to mitigate climate change, as well as adapt to it. We will ask everyone to make a pledge, no matter how small, to change something in their lives that will make a difference.

Outer Hebrides Climate Beacon

The library service itself is also making a number of pledges with the aim to be even greener in the future. We are making the change from plastic to bio book coverings wherever possible and ensuring that we source mainly recycled, green and sustainably sourced paper and products, as far as possible, in the future.  Yes, these are very small steps, but what if every service in the council made the same commitment? It’s not just the big things that matter, but showing that if everyone does something, we can work together to combat the impacts of climate change and adapt to a greener future.

Local authorities should be aware of the important role they have to play within their communities in taking a lead in the climate emergency and helping to empower local areas to make a difference. Libraries are the trusted and friendly faces of the council and are therefore perfectly placed to take on this role. Covid-19 and lockdown have already shown the vital role libraries play in keeping people connected, informed, entertained and hopeful.

Post-Covid-19 life will see them becoming even more essential to communities, connecting people through a variety of community and cultural experiences and giving them the tools, space, information and opportunities in order to recover, share experiences and heal. Looking at climate change through the Climate Beacon project will be an important part of that healing process.

The service is also working with the University of the Highlands and Islands and the Comhairle’s Archaeology Service to create a series of workshops – focusing on the environment, biodiversity, peat, the natural world and climate change – as part of the library’s existing STEAM Ahead programme. There is already a range of valuable resources available for primary and secondary schools, and so our Climate Beacon activities aim to complement these, and link them to creative activities involving Lego, coding, art and design, in order to help inspire young people.

The connections that have been made throughout the Outer Hebrides due to the Climate Beacon project will have a lasting impact. For the partners, working with the OHPP Climate Change Working Group has been an invaluable experience and has shown how art and creativity can work with science and methodology to enrich all involved.  This is not a short-term project, but something that needs to be central to everything we do going forward.

Join our #climatepledge and follow along at @OuterHebridesClimateBeacon

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