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Championing Climate Change

How HIE as an agency is putting sustainability at the heart of its development work

Addressing the challenges of climate change can seem overwhelming. We're building a team of Climate Champions within HIE to support our communities and businesses in our shared drive to be a carbon neutral economy.
Zoe Laird, Regional Head of Communities Infratructure, HIE

Climate Champions supporting sustainable development

The Highlands and Islands is a region rich in natural resources. We have a track record in pioneering energy technology,  innovative business models and community-led growth. Here at HIE, we want to help our region maximise development opportunities, and at the same time ensure they are built on sustainable and ethical foundations - recognising climate change, fair work, and equal opportunities for all.

We're making sure we have the knowledge and skills to help you in this journey. More than 40 HIE employees have completed an online climate solutions training programme with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. The programme covers the latest science, international policies and solutions for climate change. 

HIE staff taking part have come from all parts of the agency, including those working with community organisations and businesses, property and infrastructure staff, and those in key sectors including energy, and food and drink. 

If you're developing a project with HIE, remember we're here to help you look at how you can do it sustainably.

The Climate Solutions training has ignited a real enthusiasm in me to learn more, both at a personal level and to help me do my job better. It’s making me question everything, and I'm looking at social and economic development in a whole new way.
Mhari McLeman, Head of Strengthening Communities in Shetland, HIE

Meet our Climate Champions - Mhari

Mhari McLeman is HIE's head of strengthening communities in Shetland. She took part in the Climate Solutions course initially to build her knowledge and confidence in climate change issues. She says:

"I've been working with some very forward thinking local social enterprises and communities, including Fair Isle and Foula which are part of the clean energy for islands initiative. They're looking at ways to decarbonise their communities – not just in relation to their community owned electricity systems but also heat,transport and how to make smarter use of energy 

"I definitely wasn’t an environmental campaigner, much like most people I had an awareness of climate issues, but no strong pre-existing principles. I've been really quite surprised at the impact taking part in the programme has had - I'm hungry to expand my knowledge and am reading and listening to lots of additional information.

"The course didn't pull any punches about the effects of climate change but it wasn’t all doom and gloom, it did make you feel motivated by the solutions that already exist. Working for an economic development agency I'm interested in growth and sustainable development, and this course has helped highlight that climate change is the ultimate sustainable development issue.

"The course gave us data over the last two centuries since the industrial revolution on how we ‘consume’ resources – including the impacts on CO2 concentration and world surface temperatures – and the trends are alarming.  The climate change we face today arises from the accumulated results of unsustainable development at a global level.

"It’s perhaps been particularly relevant studying this in the time of COVID19 – another global issue which has turned all of our lives upside down. Lockdown means we're all asking fundamental questions about how we live – how we travel, communicate and consume products. It's also a time where governments have had to listen to scientists and science based targets to make progress, just as they need to do with Climate Change.

"A concerted global effort is required to respond. Creating a 'just transition' in energy, driving down waste, and considering the hidden issues which can be surprising and complex - for instance that the carbon footprint for internet use is already more damaging than the global airline industry!"

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Head and shoulders of Mhari McLeman

Click to play overview of UN Sustainable Development Goals

Meet our Climate Champions - Mark

With a long held passion and commitment to all things climate change and sustainability, and as HIE’s head of facilities management, Mark Wilcock is sharing his global experience by delivering practical workplace changes.

While an airforce flight lieutenant, Mark specialised in facilities management. His career subsequently has see him travel extensively, delivering workplace and business efficiency services across a range of sectors including education, retail and banking.

A common theme over the years is his commitment to sustainability and since their adoption in 2015, to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These were adopted by all UN member states and tackle issues like responsible consumption and production, affordable clean energy, decent economic growth.

He believes that now, more than ever, these goals provide a critical framework for COVID-19 recovery. 

"The Climate Solutions programme has been great in helping me look again at how I can spin knowledge into practical actions - both in the long and short term. Quick wins have included waste management of everyday products: replacing plastic with milk bottles, recycling, our adoption of hybrid cars. Also, the fabric of our buildings, making incremental changes and replacing things with efficient assets, our heating boilers. Where we build, building differently.

"Small goals have an impact in spreading the culture, encouraging conversations about circular economy, carbon footprint, and for HIE as an organisation, being a test bed, promoting the benefits and helping people go in the right direction."

Climate change and social and economic development

See the net zero Scotland website for more information on changes you can make today.

Net Zero Scotland Website
Climate Week 1920 560


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