Gina Hanrahan: Looking at the bigger picture essential viewing for our environment

Gina Hanrahan, Acting Head of Policy at WWF Scotland
Gina Hanrahan, Acting Head of Policy at WWF Scotland
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I’m often asked why WWF works on issues such as climate change and energy – are you not all about saving pandas?

The answer to that is yes and no. To save our most iconic species, we have to look at the big picture.

WWF was never just about pandas, but to save our most iconic species, we have to look at the big picture

WWF was never just about pandas, but to save our most iconic species, we have to look at the big picture

We were founded in 1961 as an international organisation to help finance and support the conservation movement on a worldwide scale. Our mission now is the same as it was then, to create a world where people and nature thrive.

Fast forward 56 years and it’s clear that the impact we’re having on the planet’s resources and species has reached breaking point. Indeed the latest bi-annual report on the state of the planet, the Living Planet Report, showed the devastating impacts humans are having on the world’s wildlife and natural resources, but it also shows we can solve them.

Species aren’t just affected by the most obvious challenges – the illegal wildlife trade, poaching, illegal logging, and habitat degradation. There are major global pressures that we all contribute to, such as climate change, and our patterns of consumption.

How we travel to work and school, how we heat our homes, where we buy our food from, who we bank with and what those banks finance – these individual decisions collectively can either turn up the heat or ease the pressure on our favourite places and species, which are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate.

But it’s not too late to bend the curve of biodiversity loss – that’s part of the reason why so many countries signed up to the Paris Agreement and are working towards a long-term goal of keeping the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with a further aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C by cutting emissions.

So what can we do in Scotland to help the global situation? Firstly we’re so lucky to live in a country with an abundance of renewable resources, including wind, tidal and solar, which can bring multiple economic and social benefits to remote and rural communities across Scotland. Renewables are working and we need to continue to make them mainstream.

We also have a forward-thinking Parliament which, in 2009, voted for what was then a world-leading Climate Change Bill. Now in 2017 we’re urging the current intake of MSPs to show the same level of leadership and ambition as the new Climate Change Bill begins its passage through Parliament.

Other countries have upped their game in recent years so now we have to step up our ambition too and match it with action. The recent Programme for Government was a major step forward with its commitment to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2032 but we can supercharge these plans and do more in other areas.

Our climate plans should deliver real action to make every home warm and healthy and make farming more efficient and environmentally friendly. The additional benefits of acting now are many including a reduction in deadly air pollution and less fuel poverty, along with the economic advantage gained by leading rather than following.

Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy, WWF Scotland