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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.


Growing climate confidence: But what can I do?

I’ve known since I was a kid that we need to take action to protect nature and reduce carbon emissions. I remember collecting the excess packaging from my snacks and posting it back to the manufacturers as part of a school project.  

But for me, and clearly for so many other people, despite all the warnings and science, I have struggled to know what to do in response. I’ve tinkered at the edges of my own behaviour and consumption and felt guilty a lot. 

I had my own epiphany moment and reinvented my thinking (a personal climate-attitude “rebrand” as Mary Portas describes it), after joining Carbon Literacy training with Nick Perks a couple of years ago. In the words that have stayed with me most from that training session: 

“It’s never too late to stop hitting yourself in the face” 

There are big structural challenges that need regulation, policy and global action. But we all have a voice, and we can use this in our work and personal lives to help us help to shape the future. The planet needs us all.  

How does this tie into my work? 

It isn’t always obvious how you relate climate action to your core mission, especially where you don’t have an obvious environmental purpose. In the face of acute cost of living pressures and social inequality, action can get pushed down the line. I get it.  

There are a couple of things that I’ve found helpful to reframe this thinking. First is this blog that Nick Addington wrote in 2022, where he articulates the role of our organisations as agents of change. We do need to achieve net zero targets, but our skills in community organising and engagement mean we can do so much more. 

This short post from Adam Bastock about reframing climate action by highlighting the benefits, not the things we will lose is also very helpful. And many of the benefits are the bread-and-butter work of third sector organisations with a more social purpose. 

So how do I get started? 

What I’ve learned is that each organisation needs to get a good plan in place and start taking action. What this looks like will depend on your context, but the core elements of the plan should include: 

  • Engagement and learning - with staff, volunteers and communities, we need to talk about what’s happening and how we feel about it. 
  • Reducing emissions – we need to release less carbon into the atmosphere by changing our approach to energy, transport, waste and our supply chain. 
  • Climate and social justice – empowering groups and communities likely to be worst affected by our changing environment to be heard and shape the solutions. 
  • Adapting – preparing for the changes that are already happening, to climate, nature and our society. 

SCVO has been working as part of a wide collaboration to help organisations create these plans and take meaningful action. 

Our new Growing Climate Confidence resources have been developed with and for third sector organisations.  

There is a short scorecard which will give you a ‘quick and dirty’ sense of what action you should prioritise first, a funding search, and loads of examples of what other similar organisations have done already. 

The data that we will collate from all the scorecard entries will be shared with funders and support organisations, from Just Enterprise to the TSI network. We hope to be able to show where more support and funding is needed, and to demonstrate the great action already being taken across the third sector in Scotland. 

And what comes next? 

The Growing Climate Confidence project is a small part of a much wider system of support. From regional climate hubs to climate emergency training, from adaptation toolkits to grants for electric vehicles to policy and influencing work– there is much to explore and engage with. 

The scale and speed of the challenge is terrifying. I don’t know if we’ll be able to do enough to salvage the future for our children and the planet. But I do know we need to try.   

Last modified on 13 July 2023