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Climate / Call to find a green way out of the Covid-19 crisis

Climate campaigner Sorley Johnston with some of the bruck he has collected from a beach near Sandness during lockdown.

A GROUP of local climate campaigners is calling on policy makers to ensure that any economic recovery programme following the Covid-19 crisis is green and, where possible, has a net-zero environmental impact.

Around ten campaigners from Shetland and from Orkney set up a Zoom meeting with Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael earlier this week as part of a day of ‘virtual mass lobbying’.

They discussed a number of topics which Carmichael said he was keen to take to parliament in London including a proposal to incorporate a net-zero stipulation into all new government procurement contracts.

Speaking to Shetland News, Sorley Johnston, from Sandness, said the MP was broadly sharing campaigners’ views and had already shown concern over food production, plastic pollution and the impact of climate change more generally.

“The green recovery is an opportunity because there is a large amount of money to be spent and we got a chance to influence how that is being spent,” he said.

Carmichael said: “There were some good and new ideas there such as climate proofing of public procurement contracts. This is something substantial we work on.”

He said there were two important occasions coming up where this idea could make an impact; firstly the environmental bill that is going through the House of Commons, and secondly the COP climate change conference that was due to be held in Glasgow in November but has now been postponed until 2021.

The MP continued: “I now need to speak to other MPs in other parties and see how we can make this work because it requires support from all the opposition parties and some Conservatives to persuade the government that this is something they should be doing.”

The Climate Coalition wants government in Westminster, Holyrood and the Town Hall to put people, climate and nature at the heart of the UK’s recovery from coronavirus, Johnston continued.

“With regards to climate, the sooner we act, the cheaper and better the result is going to be; the longer we wait the more difficult it will become to make a difference,” he said.

“We have seen from Covid what people are capable of in terms of cooperation but also in terms of government finding money.

“Green recovery makes sense; you can create jobs but you can also be reducing carbon emissions. So this is a crux moment and I fear it will slip away if we start building roads and have the traditional way out of economic downturn.”

Johnston added: “It has become commonplace to say that we can’t return to ‘normal’ as the lockdown is eased. The last few months have given us a taste of the pain and disruption caused by an unexpected crisis.

“The climate emergency is not unexpected. We have known about it for years. It is vital that the time is now to move beyond words to learn from our mistakes, to actually do things differently, and to build back better.”

The Climate Coalition brings together 58 national organisations and charities. The group’s green recovery plan can be found here.