Judi Kilgallon, Project Manager of Climate Change Transformation at the Improvement Service, believes Climate Solutions can boost the collective efforts of Scotland’s local authorities to reduce emissions.

“Action is urgently needed from all sectors to achieve Net Zero and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Local Government is well placed to design and deliver these solutions, and has an essential role to play in not only taking action but also through influence and leadership.

The Improvement Service was established in 2005 as a national organisation to support local authorities to provide effective community leadership, strong local governance and high quality, efficient local services. We provide practical, tailored support and have a unique position through our reach across the local government community.

Climate change is a driver of our Strategic Framework and a cross-cutting theme of our core priorities. To be relevant and effective, a robust response to climate change must be embedded across our programmes and operations and my position was newly created to develop our work in this area. I wanted to have a stronger understanding of where we could have the most impact and was able to apply for a place on Climate Solutions.

Climate Solutions is a new online learning opportunity from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS), in collaboration with University of Edinburgh, University of Stirling and Institute of Directors (IoD) Scotland. Climate Solutions aims to educate middle and senior business leaders and managers on climate change, highlighting market prescience, outlining the actions that can be taken to mitigate the impact, as well as the opportunities which exist by incorporating these solutions within business operations going forward. It is offered in two ways – the Climate Solutions Professional and the 90-minute Climate Solutions Accelerator.

The Climate Solutions Professional course stood out as providing a balance of science, policy, and most importantly practical solutions. Designed by an impressive collaboration of academics and experts, the structure of the course was engaging and accessible, with a combination of personal study complemented by two interactive workshops. The online platform ensured effective use of time, and the workshops created an innovative and supportive space to share ideas across sectors. Climate change needs a collaborative approach and the opportunity to bring together the public and private sector was a highlight.

The aim is to build your capability by exploring useful and relevant frameworks and examples which you can then apply to your organisation. Throughout, you are empowered to take the time to reflect and think critically about personal and organisational opportunities. The learning and networking continue as I am now part of an expanding and evolving community of Climate Solutions graduates who are involved in regular events and knowledge sharing opportunities.

Since taking the course, I have been able to more effectively drive change and transformation within the Improvement Service and our partners. I now have a clearer understanding of what we need to do and where we can make the biggest impact.

We are reviewing all our activity from Board level to individual workloads, and are in the process of agreeing our Net Zero strategy and actions. Organisation-wide engagement and education is central to raise awareness, creating a shared understanding and language around the contribution all employees can make. We are liaising with professional networks to share learning, expanding our work on data analysis and benchmarking, shaping planning policy and developing resources and events for Elected Members. We can help embed transformation by building capacity, sharing notable practice and communicating and influencing the national picture. Building and developing new and existing partnerships with organisations like COSLA, the Sustainable Scotland Network and the Scottish Cities Alliance is central to our approach.

Local Government will continue to shape and accelerate the response to climate change and deliver benefits for people and planet. Across Scotland, councils are driving change through the management of their buildings and fleets, development of new policies and place based approaches and bringing together partnerships. The Improvement Service has an important role to play in supporting this innovation and transformation and we look forward to continuing to develop our activity.

The climate crisis will be solved by people. Whatever your sector and whatever your role you need the skills to make a difference. In this pivotal year of COP26, now is the time to be part of the solution.”

To sign up or to find our more about the Climate Solutions Professional or Climate Solutions Accelerator, please email: climate.solutions@rsgs.org

 

Benjamin Franklin once said that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. The climate change crisis, however, is rapidly becoming a close third on that ominously short list.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that a tax expert with decades of experience in the energy industry, and who now serves as a Non-Executive Director to the Scottish Government, reckons that one of the best ways to navigate our planet through this climate change crisis is via tax policy.

When Jim Robertson qualified as a chartered accountant working for PwC in 1981, the world was a very different place. The global economy was on the up and up, the oil and gas industry in the UK was booming, and the chance to join global energy giant Shell was an excellent career opportunity.

Jim Robertson

The experience and insight into global energy taxation policies Jim has amassed in a career spanning four decades in the industry, working in London, The Hague, Kuala Lumpur, Aberdeen and Houston, is now being put to very good use. In his role as a Non-Executive Director of the Scottish Government he considers all the risks facing the nation at the very highest level. His professional understanding of taxation has similarly placed him high on the call list for Governments globally on how best to shape the taxation policies that will drive the critical green energy revolution, putting the responsibility for change firmly back into the hands of the consumer.

It was through his work as a member of the Climate Emergency Action Group of the Scottish Leaders Forum that Jim first got the opportunity to undertake the Climate Solutions Professional course, a new online learning opportunity from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS), in collaboration with University of Edinburgh, University of Stirling and Institute of Directors (IoD) Scotland.

Climate Solutions aims to educate middle and senior business leaders and managers on climate change, outlining the actions that can be taken to mitigate the impact before it’s too late. It is offered in two ways – the Climate Solutions Professional and the 90-minute Climate Solutions Accelerator. Over 1000 leaders globally have now taken part or enrolled in the Climate Solutions Professional accredited course, which consists of four modules, online workshops and the development of a Climate Action Plan. The Scottish Government provided funding for the development of the course and an initial 100 places.

Jim’s reason for taking the course was very clear:

“I was very happy to be nominated to take part in the pilot of the Climate Solutions Professional course. It was over 40 years since I did any science at school and, despite having 40 years’ experience in the energy industry, the opportunity to brush up on my knowledge as well as broaden my understanding was appealing. It’s essentially an executive MBA on climate change and, for busy people, it’s structured so you can do it at your own pace and in your own time. It helped fill in a lot of gaps for me, augmenting the knowledge I already had, and the ability to access subject matter experts was really invaluable.”

“At the conclusion of the course, we all had to develop a personal action plan which prompted me to look in depth at how countries can use carbon pricing to adjust consumer behaviour. As long as gas central heating is about a third of the cost of electricity from renewable sources, it’s hard to convince consumers to switch. If carbon pricing was introduced to address that imbalance, we would soon see a marked increase in the consumption of energy from renewable sources. It’s the scale of the change that feels overwhelming to people. There are about 28 million gas boilers in the UK and the Climate Change Committee that advises the government says we need to replace 400,000 per year by 2025 rising to 900,000 per year by 2028.The sooner we get started, the better. Carbon pricing will help drive consumer behavioural changes, but bold government action is needed too.

“In truth, one of the key outcomes of doing the Climate Solutions Professional course for me was that it gave me a far better understanding of the climate change risk that the Scottish Government has to manage, the scale of the challenge and what needs to be done right now, to respond to what the First Minister rightly refers to as the Climate Change Emergency.”

Each module of the course takes between two and three hours to complete and during each module there is an opportunity to capture learnings in a “Pause for Thought” session. These are available to all participants afterwards to discuss during the workshops and to assist in the development of their Climate Action Plan. During the workshops, there is an opportunity to meet other participants and afterwards each participant creates a Climate Action Plan for their business area. Once plans have been completed and reviewed, participants are awarded the Professional Certificate in Climate Solutions and invited to become a member of the Climate Solutions Network.

In addition to his work with the Scottish Government, Jim’s understanding of global taxation policies and the positive impact these can have on climate change extends to his involvement with the United Nations, where he is a member of the Subcommittee on Extractive Industries Taxation Issues for Developing Countries, and to the UK Chartered Institute of Taxation’s Climate Change Working Group. In the UK, the majority of tax powers in relation to climate change are reserved to Westminster.

Jim’s passion for energy companies being part of the solution, not the problem, is evident when you speak to him.

“Energy companies want to be part of the solution to these challenges. They have the technology research capability to explore innovative solutions such as carbon capture & storage and the role of hydrogen. They are able to manage and deliver large scale projects on time and within budget. They understand fluids management, energy supply, trading and transportation. They can produce energy from renewable sources, but they can’t make consumers buy without a market price signal. Governments can use taxation to nudge (or significantly shift) consumer behaviour. We just need to look at the impact of the plastic bag tax in the UK to know it works.”

“Now is the time for leaders from across Scotland to step up. Climate change is everyone’s problem, and our collective knowledge and insight is really valuable. I would strongly urge all business leaders and managers to improve their understanding of the climate change issue and how to respond to it because, to quote the great Benjamin Franklin, ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’ And the planet can’t afford for this to fail.”

To sign up or to find out more about the Climate Solutions Professional or Climate Solutions Accelerator, please log onto: www.climatesolutionsnetwork.com or email climate.solutions@rsgs.org.