Why firms should sign up to the Edinburgh Climate Compact - Councillor Adam McVey

When COP26 came to Scotland recently, the climate emergency was truly at the top of the agenda for most, in fact if not all, businesses.

One thing that came out of all the discussions was the UK Government’s announcement at the summit in Glasgow that larger companies must set out detailed public plans on how they intend to reach net zero.

But firms of all sizes, from SMEs to global corporates, are all looking to meet their responsibilities to cut emissions. We now need to work together and keep focus as a city to leave a legacy from COP that limits global temperature rises and leaves a bright future for the next generation.

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In Edinburgh, we have ambitious targets in place to reach net zero by 2030, ahead of the national deadline of 2045. Edinburgh is leading the way in demonstrating what cities and local authorities across the country can do when it comes to addressing key issues such as climate change and poverty, having in recent weeks been named one of just 95 cities across the world leading on climate action.

Edinburgh is leading the way addressing key issues such as climate change and poverty, according to Councillor McVey. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

The Edinburgh Climate Compact is an agreement by businesses and employers to take action within their organisations to radically cut the city’s carbon emissions, setting a roadmap to them on their net-zero journey and aid green recovery.

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The Compact agreement ensures employers of all sizes take urgent action to secure a more sustainable future for our residents. Every business that signs up commits to calculate its carbon footprint, set reduction targets for emissions, develop an action plan to meet those targets and promote what they are doing to reduce their impact on the environment.

The Edinburgh Climate Commission is an independent group from across sectors in the city that was set up to accelerate climate action and help foster solutions and bring challenge where required. The group is co-sponsored by the City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute at the University of Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh Council leader notes that the Scottish capital has 'ambitious' targets in place to reach net zero by 2030. Picture: Lloyd Smith.

The Commission is encouraging organisations to follow the lead of others, such as NatWest Banking Group, Scottish Power Energy Networks, the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh Trams, NHS Lothian, Edinburgh Airport and the City of Edinburgh Council, by joining the Climate Compact.

For the Council, being part of the Edinburgh Climate Compact is helping us work closely with and learn from other organisations in the city about the best ways we can change to reduce our emissions and ensure that sustainable and climate-friendly working practices are at the core of our work.


Organisations who have also signed up have also recognised the vital role it’s playing in the drive to net zero and keep positive discussions going. Clare Foster, from the Edinburgh Climate Commission, believes that being part of the Climate Compact as a supportive community of major organisations sharing challenges and achievements and working collaboratively has enormous value.

As we build a legacy from COP26, the role of business and employers in cutting emissions and supporting green recovery from the pandemic is well understood as crucial to our ability to reach net zero.

There are many and varied reasons behind why different organisations have decided to sign up to the Edinburgh Climate Compact. The Edinburgh International Festival joined in June 2021. Since becoming part of the agreement, it has published its Sustainability Policy and Carbon Reduction Plan, setting out ambitious targets for the next decade.

These targets include to reach net-zero carbon emissions across its organisational operations by 2030 and across its artistic programme by 2045; working with partners to instil sustainability best practice from inception to delivery of the festival; and embracing new models of working with companies and orchestras to reduce carbon impact.


Edinburgh Napier University has engaged with other place-based partners, contributing its expertise and learning from best practice developed by other organisations. Since becoming a signatory it has made new connections and is taking collective action in areas where collaboration will make a real difference – the whole purpose of the Compact.

Being part of the Climate Compact is one of many ways in which Edinburgh Council is working with other public sector organisations and businesses to reach net zero. By working with Forth Ports we’re creating Scotland’s largest renewable energy hub at the Port of Leith with £40 million of private investment to support up to 1,000 direct and 2,000 indirect jobs.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is using its rain garden to manage flooding and to study which trees, shrubs, and wildflowers are best suited to absorb excess water after heavy rain.

Meanwhile, NHS Lothian has commenced a major programme of energy efficiency works at the Western General Hospital to deliver high-energy-efficiency systems, and low-carbon technologies. The Council has also signed a strategic partnership with SP Energy Network to align grid development investment to the needs of the city.

There is lots of great work going on in the drive to cut emissions, but, as we’re all too aware, we need to keep going to ensure we meet our 2030 net-zero target. I would therefore ask all businesses, small, medium and large, to sign up to the Edinburgh Climate Compact and commit to playing their part in protecting our environment for future generations living and working in the city. Climate action starts with us, and it starts now.

Councillor Adam McVey, leader of the City of Edinburgh Council

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