Edinburgh's independent student newspaper

The University launches £1 million climate change fund

Climate protest
Friday 15th October 19.37

Ahead of COP26, the University has launched a climate change fund in partnership with the Royal Bank of Scotland for Scottish firms and businesses.

The scheme aims to “empower Scottish companies” through teaching and training.

The University’s Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI) is attempting to work in partnership with “business banking specialists” in order to “help firms identify the opportunities a net zero economy can create”.

It plans to focus on small-to-medium Scottish businesses and aims to help 500 of them.

Through “toolkits, online learning, mentoring and peer-to-peer work” ECCI and the Royal Bank plans to teach the implications of climate change and how to reach net-zero.

Executive Director at ECCI, Prof. Dave Reay has commented saying:

“Our Institute brings together unique partnerships to find the most effective ways to tackle the global challenge of climate change. Small businesses have so much to contribute to the transition to a net zero economy, but they need support to understand where they can have the most impact and to recognise and respond to the opportunities it presents.”

The idea of a ‘net zero economy’ has been highlighted by organisations such as the United Nations with their ‘Race to Zero Breakthroughs’ campaign.

They want multiple sectors of the economy to reach net zero by 2030, arguing that it can help to reverse the effects of climate change.

This thinking and teaching is being brought directly to Scotland with the UN Climate Conference (COP26) which will be held in Glasgow next month.

The UN High-Level Champions have called on “local governments, businesses and investors to achieve breakthroughs in at least 10 sectors of the economy” by the time of COP26.

Scotland has also aimed to have net zero emissions nationally by 2045 in an effort to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

However, the idea of a ‘net zero economy’ has also been criticised by multiple climate scientists and activists.

One of the most notable is Greta Thunberg, founder of the School Strike for Climate movement, who has said “forget about net zero, we need real zero”.

She has also stated on Twitter that ‘net zero targets’ are “being used as excuses to postpone real action”.

Greenpeace has also described net zero as a “dangerous trap” with climate research scientist Wolfgang Knorr saying:

“I am scared almost more by the consequences of net zero, than by those of climate warming.”

This is due to the apparent harm to biodiversity that net zero puts in place by ‘carbon offsetting’, which can result in deforestation and the subsequent harming of ecosystems.

The University can also be criticised for putting up appearances rather than focusing on real change. The University’s budget was £1,112.5 million for 2019–20, meaning £1 million is not as substantial of a dent in spending as it sounds.

Moreover, the University’s other climate policies have often focused on individual action rather than institutional change.

They have pointed at staff and students to make efforts such as ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and have provided a 45-60 minute ‘Introduction to Sustainability’ course.

COP26 takes place between 31st October and 12th November. Many hope it will open a discussion on how to hold notable bodies such as universities accountable for climate degradation.

Image credit: Callum Shaw via Unsplash