Green Action Trust – Scotland’s leading environmental regeneration charity
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By Derek A. Robertson, Chief Executive, Green Action Trust
One of the benefits of lockdown has been the space it has given us to think about what is important to us. The imposed restrictions have led to creativity and innovation, exploring our local spaces and community, taking better care of ourselves and each other – and in many instances we will want to keep changes we have made in order to be safer, because they have also been a positive and welcomed imposition.
For our charity, as we placed a temporary pause on some of our operations, it made space for us to think about the strategic response required to meet the climate challenges we face. If we are to help Scotland build more sustainable communities and a greener country, and make the necessary shift to a green recovery, our work has never been more important.
To ensure we can play our part effectively in delivering the nation-wide action on environmental regeneration we need, we have come to what has felt like a natural milestone for the charity, the launch of our refreshed identity as the Green Action Trust.
When we consulted with key partners and stakeholders, we came to realise that we hold experience and skills that are, in areas, untapped. Our new identity will help us to unlock this potential so we are better placed to work with the Scottish government, local authorities, businesses and communities to help ensure that Scotland's environmental challenges can be met, supporting our ambition to be at heart of Scotland’s environmental regeneration.
While this change signifies an exciting new outlook for the charity, our work in many ways will remain the same. We will continue to coordinate and drive the delivery of the Central Scotland Green Network Plan, the largest greenspace project in Europe, and support the development of the Scottish government’s fourth National Planning Framework. We will also continue to work closely with and on behalf of the network of partners we have developed over the years. But our new identity expands our mission to a national perspective, opening opportunities to work with more partners and support climate change action right across Scotland.
When we were hit by the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, we were gathering ourselves to face down the climate emergency. With the right ambitions and thinking for our green recovery post-Covid19, we will emerge better prepared to meet this challenge.
At the crux of our work is improving greenspaces in both urban and rural settings, which provides us with a variety of resources to help tackle climate change and mitigate against its effects. The far-reaching benefits of green networks and green infrastructure also cut across Scottish Government policy and agendas. Our existing and future partners have much to gain as we pursue our refreshed ambitions for Scotland and its residents, and we anticipate our continued and new partnerships to include the following areas of vital work.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Scotland had been celebrating a successful year of tree planting with the increase in woodland creation exceeding the Scottish government’s target of 10k hectares by 12.1%. It is a significant step in a green network’s offering of carbon sequestration opportunities, which can also include peatland restoration and wetland creation and management. The forestry sector’s contribution to mitigating the effects of climate change is set to rise further as the government’s Climate Change Plan 2018-32 commits to an increased target of 15k hectares from 2024-25.
The pandemic has also focused our attention on the quality of our local environments, highlighting the vast number of vacant and derelict sites throughout our towns and cities and out into the rural areas. There is great potential to breathe life into these unused or underused spaces through temporary or permanent greening. And we are beginning to recognise and capture the wider value of land and of action to improve it. The Scottish Conservation Finance Project’s £1 Billion Challenge Route Map includes proposals for a privately financed Vacant and Derelict Land Fund generating investment returns from environmental and social benefits.
While the climate change emergency continues to intensify, green networks and green infrastructure contribute through a range of mechanisms to reducing the impacts of the climate change which is already happening. At a landscape scale, green infrastructure includes natural flood risk management approaches such as increasing riparian woodland and re-naturalising river corridors. And more locally (particularly in urban areas) rain gardens, green roofs and other sustainable drainage systems increase permeability of surfaces and reduce flood risks from surface water runoff. ‘In street’ green infrastructure also has the potential to reduce air pollution including particulates.
With the coordinated and strategic approach we want to achieve, we will be creating an ecologically coherent network of habitats, with improved management and increased connectivity. Here, species can move more easily in response to the changes in climates and larger populations are more resilient to change, and well-managed, large areas of habitat are also more likely to be able to survive in the face of climate change. So, by developing green networks, we will be increasing the resilience of natural systems to climate change.
To capture and maximise this environmental regeneration potential as part of our green recovery, we want to increase our work in new ways and with new partners. Under our new identity, we will provide a vast array of services, enabling a range of private, public and third sector partners to turn their own green ambitions into reality – bringing about tangible change and helping to deliver a greener country.
To learn more about the Green Action Trust and its ambitious plans visit www.greenactiontrust.org.
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