Interpreting Climate Change

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By Nicola Young

If there is one thing I have discovered over the last few years it is that everyone has a slightly different interpretation of the terms used around climate change – and the terms seem to move around a lot.  From zero carbon, carbon neutral, carbon cost to net and even gross zero.

Net zero is the ‘hot’ topic of the moment with the UK becoming one of the first major economies to set a target of being net zero – and by 2050. The term net zero is important because – for CO2 at least – this is the state at which global warming stops and it is the internationally agreed goal for mitigating global warming in the second half of the century.

In itself, it doesn’t tackle all of the issues surrounding climate change but it is important – so exactly what is it and why does it matter?

Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away.

It matters because climate change is effected by higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and this term is deliberate – greenhouses trap gas and energy from the sun. In our case, our ‘greenhouse’ gasses – carbon dioxide, methane and water – create a warming of the Earth’s surface and the air above it. If we put too much of these gasses into the atmosphere too fast then our atmosphere can’t self regulate. This changes the ability of our planet to function in the way the living things on our planet have evolved to function.

Even with a small rise in global temperatures we can see the effects of climate change – erratic weather patterns – from heatwaves, floods and severe storms to the loss of the polar ice and rising seas levels. Once this warming gains momentum it becomes very hard to reverse.

This is where net zero comes in. The aim is get emissions to a level that balances what is added to the atmosphere and what the atmosphere can cope with to naturally regulate or, more simply, achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out.

With so many brands taking up the Climate Challenge to get to Net Zero there already some great examples of what can be done in Scotland’s hospitality sector.

Leading the charge across the sector is the Net Zero Pubs and Bars initiative as well as the UK Hospitality and the British Beer and Pub Associations, Zero Carbon Forum.

Net Zero Pubs and Bars comes under Net Zero and is being delivered by Coca Cola Europacific Partners and Pernod Ricard. It aims to accelerate climate action and provides an industry-wide protocol and certification standard to help the UK’s bars and pubs to reach net-zero before 2050.  It puts the the climate strategy in the hands of the On-Trade in a three-step approach – Calculate, Mitigate, Compensate.

It has also been widely supported and includes the Lisini Pub Company as part of the pilot and it aims to help support the sector further by providing guidance and help along with official accreditation – already a growing feature in the hotel sector.

It recognises that transition will be difficult, particularly now, with margins under pressure and takes into account the practical problems facing the day-to-day business of the sector.

Net-Zero Now’s Chief Executive, Simon Heppner has said. “One of the things we’ve learned is this is a sector with a big impact and small margins”.

While it recognises that transition will be difficult, particularly right now, and with margins under pressure it manages to outline some practical solutions to delivering on net zero.

For example, at the launch event earlier this year, it was highlighted that for food-led pubs 70% of their overall emissions footprint is associated with food, mainly through embedded carbon and from cooking using gas.  The Initiative will encourage pubs and bars to choose when and how they will make more major investments or changes to processes and supply chains.

“Given the state that everyone’s in post-pandemic… you might look at the action plan and say you can only tackle the cost-saving steps in the next six months,” summarised the Sustainable Restaurants Association’s (SRA) managing director Juliane Caillouette Noble.

They also emphasised that pubs and bars can champion choice for the consumer. An example was that switching half of the dairy products to alternatives could reduce a site’s annual emissions footprint by more than 19 tonnes.

In the case of Pickled Ginger, a Glasgow-based Japanese restaurant, they are engaging their customers with an overall net-zero transition by running a 4 week campaign until the end of COP26, to raise the funds to plant over 1,000 trees. Their campaign, ‘Plant One On Pickled Ginger’ commits to planting a tree for every £15 spent in the restaurant.

Pickled Ginger already operates a reduce and recycle policy and zero waste on single-use plastic in the restaurant.

It is clear  that we are already seeing a wide range of innovation across Scotland’s venues, from the removal of plastic, to heating and charging points.

SWG3 have even revealed plans for the multi-discipline arts venue to get to net zero within the next 4 years. They have already switched to a renewable energy supply, calculating their operational carbon footprint and offsetting their emissions, rolling out trials of products to reduce plastic waste at events.   This already meets the Net Zero Pubs and Bars aim of Calculate, Mitigate, Compensate.

Short term, the venue has announced plans to establish a dedicated Green Team who will oversee, measure and advocate positive change from within the venue. As well as the removal of single-use plastic, sustainable supply and partnership policies will be implemented, and two acres of garden space will be created around the site to make space for community growing, beehives and biodiverse planting.

In the longer term SWG3 are planning BODYHEAT, a renewable heating system that aims to convert body heat energy from customers, visitors and staff before transporting it to boreholes where it can be stored for days, weeks or even months.

There is no doubt that SWG3 are taking the climate challenge through their brand with the venue hosting The New York Times Climate Hub during the COP26 summit with some of the world’s most powerful voices when it comes to climate change set to speak including Pakistani activist for female education and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, renowned artist Oliver Jeffers and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson who is an author, strategist, teacher and one of 15 “women who will save the world,” according to Time magazine.

Meanwhile, aparthotel, Native Glasgow, has not only implemented its sustainable plan and is on track to reduce single-use plastic by 100% this year, but Native is also focusing on local produce targeting the use of milk and coffee.

They are working with ethically sourced Glasgow coffee roaster – Dear Green, and Ayrshire dairy farm – Mossgiel Milk, to offer their guests a morning coffee through sustainable practices. There is zero waste with the milk production as the organic milk is supplied and refilled on site using an innovative reuse and recycle method, reducing landfill and cutting the hotel’s plastic use down considerably.

Speaking of their Green Commitment, Gary White, Scotland Regional Manager, said, “As a company, it’s important that we continue to seek out eco-friendly solutions for our guests and support the local economy. Green growth will be key for future travel and at Native, we are committed to lowering our environmental impact.

In Edinburgh, six electric EV points have been installed at Ten Hill Place, which is run by the commercial arm of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. It is thought to be the highest number available at a hotel in central Edinburgh. The hotel has already been recognised with a Gold Green Tourism Award for its efforts to minimise its impact on the planet.

Mark McKenzie, Surgeons Quarter General Manager, commented, “This investment reflects the growing demand to access EV points across the city. The onus is on us as a venue to put environmental practices at the forefront of whatever we are doing and this installation is only part of our commitment to sustainability

 “In light of COP26, we felt it was the right time to install and launch the six new EV charging points which have been positively received by guests and staff since revealed.

The venue’s commitment to sustainability has been ongoing for many years. Just over two years ago the hotel removed single-use bottles of water in the 129 bedrooms to reduce plastic waste. It is estimated this will save more than 80,000 plastic bottles a year.

Meanwhile in Glasgow Derby Lane, which recently won the Stolichnaya Sustainability Award, has launched a new initiative asking diners to plant a tree to help the fight against poverty in the developing world and to offset the carbon footprint of their meals for just £1.23 The bar willl host a tree counter on their website to show how many trees have resulted from their diners’ generosity, and where they are growing. And the team has already planted the first 100 trees themselves to get the ball rolling. They are aiming to get a further 100 trees planted during COP26 with the help of customers.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, even if you don’t have big plans yet, every single thing you do will help – no matter how small you think it is. Just one thing every day by us all.

Once we get to the tipping point temperature, and we are close to it now – estimates vary between as little as 15 and 40 years – we will not be able to reverse it. If we don’t manage to stop global warming now, and it really is now, then it will mean the ecosystem of our planet will not be able to support life as we know it.  The bleak pathway once this happens will mean wars over food and water as, those who can, fight for survival. It’s not a legacy any of us can afford for us or our children.