Environment Scotland: Young climate activist optimism for Scottish Government 'Wee Forests' project post COP26

A young climate activist remains “optimistic” as the Scottish Government is funding a network of ‘Wee Forests’ across Scotland to help tackle the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

The NatureScot programme aims to involve communities and schools in towns and cities across Scotland and is backed by £500,000 of Scottish Government funding.

Around 600 native trees will be planted by “Wee Foresters” to create a forest in an area the size of a tennis court.

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Wee Forests will be planted in Edinburgh, Glasgow, East Ayrshire, Aberdeen, Dundee and West Lothian.

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Volunteer keeper teams will look after the forests over the long term and schools will use the forests for outdoor learning.

The project follows on from the global climate change conference COP26, which took place in Glasgow last year.

Laura Young, a 25-year-old climate activist known as Less Waste Laura, said she was optimistic about what the project will achieve for the environment as she hopes it will not turn into a “tick-box exercise”.

Young school children help plant trees as part of Wee Forests project (Photo: Scottish Government).

Ms Young said: "One of my big questions for Scotland before COP26 was ‘what’s going to be the legacy that’s left behind?’

"I think this is a really cool thing that’s come out of it as trees are a really important part of the climate movement, both for the reduction of carbon emissions and for increasing biodiversity.

"It’s all round good news coming into 2022.

"As long as it’s not a tick box and we don’t stop there, I think it’s pretty positive.”

Climate activist Laura Young, known as Less Waste Laura, says she is 'optimistic' about the Wee Forests project across Scotland (Photo: Andrew Cawley).
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Planting has already begun, and NatureScot is working with local authorities and a number of Scottish environmental organisations to help roll-out the programme this year.

People will also be able to take part in citizen science activities – supported by Earthwatch Europe – in the forests, including monitoring the butterflies that use the forests and measuring how much carbon is captured by the trees as they grow.

The young activist said she hoped the project would inspire young generations of climate enthusiasts as she commented that other grassroots projects are arising. The Wee Woods project in East Renfrewshire aims to plant 12,000 trees across the council area by next month.

Ms Young said: "The more we increase outdoor experiences and education, the more we bring up a generation of people who care about the planet.

"We’ve had two years of so many young people being inside because of the coronavirus. There is now a potential for kids to be outside and being involved in outdoor learning brings out so many opportunities to learn about the environment."

Environment minister Mairi McAllan said: “This new network of Wee Forests is a great example of partnership working between the public, private and voluntary sector and is an important legacy of COP26 when the eyes of world were on Glasgow and the future of our planet.”

Confirmation of the deposit return scheme – a recycling system where consumers pay a small deposit for plastic and glass bottles – being delayed by the Scottish Government was “crushing”, Ms Young said, as she hopes more will be done to address this issue.

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Ms Young said: “What I want to talk about with the Scottish Government is we have amazing targets, but how are we going to get from A to B.”

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