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Lessons from COP26

Picture of sun set in Glasgow

As the dust settles and world leaders from all corners of the globe leave Glasgow, many Scots will be wondering what the outcomes of these discussions mean for you. There are many big changes that need to be made to address the climate emergency, not just on a global scale, but also much closer to home.

But with so much to digest from a fortnight’s worth of discussions, and hoards of information to take in, where do you start? Here, of course!

COP26 in a nutshell

In a nutshell, COP26 was a space for every country in the world to come together to find real-life solutions to the ever-growing climate emergency. The outcome of this was the Glasgow Pact. A series of negotiations on various topics took place with the intention of ensuring we were sticking to previously agreed plans.

Countries were asked to republish their climate action plans by the end of next year, with more ambitious emission reduction targets for 2030.


  • Overall Scotland is in a good place regarding our climate emergency plans as the Scottish Government had already committed to an ambitious but important target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, which is five years ahead of other UK targets.
  • More widely, a pledge made in a draft of the pact to “phase out” coal was instead watered down at the last minute to a commitment to “phase down” coal.
  • Emphasis was placed on the need to transition to clean energy and green technology, with the Scottish Government pledging to invest £500 million into infrastructure for active travel.
  • There is a need for developed countries to increase the targets for the amount of money they give to those who are suffering the harsh impacts of climate change.

What does all this mean for you?

Although many of these highlights may seem lofty and the preserve of governments, we also need to remember that it’s vital that we all do our bit. If we don’t, our planet will continue to suffer the consequences of decades worth of damage from burning fossil fuels amongst other harmful human activities.

This will take the committed effort of everyone; the big businesses responsible for major pollution, governments who can legislate for this, but also for individuals who can make their corner of the world a better place for everyone within their community.

Here’s what you can do to help your household, workplace or local area to contribute to Scotland reaching net zero.

Decarbonise your home heating system

Around 1.4 million properties across Scotland are still rated ‘C’ or worse on their Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) according to the Energy Efficient Scotland report of 2019. Even more (around 2 million properties) rely on inefficient mains gas. If we are to meet the goals laid out at COP26, changes are needed. It’s time to decarbonise.

Bringing these numbers down will not only be critical in protecting the planet but will greatly benefit householders as well. Buildings with higher EPC ratings enjoy a home which stays warmer for longer, which is critical to our physical, mental (and financial!) wellbeing. Here’s what you can do to improve your home:

  • Consider upgrading your home heating system to become a more energy efficient. For example, you could see if your home is suitable for a heat pump or a range of other clean energy options. If you’re unsure where to start, we are always here to help with impartial advice, funding support and more.  
  • There are other ways to lower your carbon footprint, even if your home is unsuitable for renewable energy options. If you live in a tenement home, improving your energy rating can seem daunting, but it is certainly possible. Watch our webinar on making your tenement more energy efficient.
  • Many things can be done at little to no cost that can positively impact the efficiency of our homes – saving you money in the process. You could install better insulation and draught-proof your home to stop heat escaping from windows, doors and various nooks and crannys. Take a look at this guide to reducing home heat loss from Energy Saving Trust.

Travel actively or electrically

Transport emissions are Scotland’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gas output, representing 36% of total emissions in 2018. Central to this is the use of petrol and diesel vehicles, which is why the ban on selling new vehicled which rely on these inefficient fuels will come into effect in 2030.

Supporting this is the renewed commitment to improving public infrastructure in the shift towards electric vehicles (EVs) and other modes of green travel.

Here’s what you can do to make a change and paint the town green:

  • Take a reflective look at the journeys you make – whether you are commuting to work, visiting loved ones or going on holiday, if there is a low carbon way to make that journey, such as walking or cycling, you will be doing the environment a favour, as well as improving your own wellbeing.
  • Walking or wheeling are great accessible travel options – by walking home from the shops, from example, you’re both building your own strength by carrying bags back and saving carbon from being released into the atmosphere! Paths For All have an excellent website, filled with information and resources to help and inspire you. 
  • By getting on your bike, you’ll put less harmful emissions into the environment and keep more money in your pocket. Concerned about tackling steep hills and long journeys? We offer help to get your hands on an eBike, with funding from Transport Scotland.
  • When walking, wheeling or cycling are not an option, consider public transport before hopping in an emission-heavy vehicle. A whopping £500 million of infrastructure is being invested in to make it easier for people to access public transport – plan your journey today!
  • The future of vehicles will be – and needs to be – electric. Technology continues to improve to make the switch to an EV increasingly possible across Scotland. They offer cheaper lifetime running costs and many other benefits too. Initial purchasing costs can be a deterrent – that’s why we offer help to access funding. 

Reduce waste

Did you know that 80% of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from all the goods, materials and services we use? Many of these are not reusable or recyclable, causing a great strain on the environmental wellbeing of our country and the planet as a whole.

Part of this includes the huge amount of food waste that’s thrown away having never been eaten. Living and shopping as sustainably as possible is fundamental to tackling the climate crisis and, if every household across Scotland acts, we can slow down the harm caused by waste.

Here’s how:

  • Zero Waste Scotland have many great resources to help you make important changes. They offer tips on how to waste less, including advice on shopping sustainably and tools to simplify the process of recycling.
  • It’s not just about recycling. Reusing and repairing items are an even more environmentally sound way of making positive changes. Why consign your unwanted items to be buried in the ground when they could go on to serve another purpose, or make someone else happy? Give old items a new lease of life, whether that’s mending and upgrading your clothes or have an organisation collect your unwanted furniture or appliances.
  • Reducing the amount of food we discard will not only be good for the planet, but also your purse strings. Check out the Love Food Hate Waste campaign for inspiration – amongst their handy tools, you can find recipes to use up leftover foods!
  • Fancy learning how to compost your own waste at home? Particularly handy for those living in areas where a food waste recycling service isn’t available, and for the green-thumbed among you looking to create free and nutrient-rich compost ready for planting.

Still unsure? We’re here to help

Making these important changes can seem like a daunting task, but we are here to help you make the transition to a greener, cleaner life easier. Our website is full to the brim with useful information, as is our YouTube, Facebook and Twitter which we’d encourage you to follow to stay up-to-date.

Still can’t find the answers you’re looking for? Then give us a call on 0808 808 2282 or arrange a callback at a time that suits you.