A large panda holding the WWF Climate Change award

Sixth time is a charm they say – especially in the context of Oscar nominations and Leonardo Dicaprio, who after years of waiting finally walked away with a coveted golden statue for his performance in The Revenant.

Here on the Climate Change blog, we don’t tend to venture into the world of entertainment, and I think it is a safe bet to assume we won’t be starting a regular showbiz column anytime soon.

However, at this year’s Oscars, Dicaprio used to his advantage to a short, but headline grabbing acceptance speech to highlight the issue of Climate Change.

Inspiring climate action! Congrats Leonardo DiCaprio! #oscars2016

A photo posted by WWF International (@wwf) on

Of course, what Dicaprio is highlighting is something the wider scientific community has been saying for decades, just not with the same style or presence as Leo. But he is an active climate champion and has donated his time and money to the cause. And has done all this from an unrivalled platform of media attention. We need more people like Leo!

What is Scotland Doing?

In Scotland, we are in the position where the conversation has long since moved on from debating whether Climate Change is happening. Instead we now talk about ways in which to tackle the problem, in terms of both slowing down the rate of global change through emissions reduction (mitigation) and dealing with the inevitable impacts of climate change (adaptation).

Since the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was passed, the Scottish Government has been working towards lowering Scotland’s carbon emissions to help combat the global issue. There are two principle targets, a 42% reduction by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. These targets will be achieved by working towards ambitious renewable targets and clear plans to boost energy efficiency alongside the most aspiring emissions-reduction targets in the world.

In an update report published in January, to date, carbon emissions have been reduced by 34.3% since 1990 in Scotland. This is higher than the EU and UK totals of 20.8% and 27.4% respectively. Other impressive stats include the fact we now produce almost half the energy required for our electricity needs from renewable sources. Progress is being made in the right direction.

What are we Doing?

2015 has seen us bring to an end our first carbon management plan, which had been in operation since 2010 (our Carbon Manager, Scott Brady goes into more detail about that here). Although we didn’t meet our own ambitious targets, great progress continues to be made (and will continue) towards improving Historic Environment Scotland’s sustainability and taking action on climate change.

In 2015, for example, we made average energy savings of 24% at our top seven energy consuming sites, including a 30% reduction at Edinburgh Castle and 32% at the Palace of Holyrood. Outside the top seven, sites like Arbroath Abbey and Castle Campbell recorded massive reductions of 47% and 56% respectively. Last year, we won the inaugural award for Public Body Champion from WWF, in light of our support in raising awareness of Climate Change. This year, we’ll once again take part in Earth Hour by switching off the lights at some of our properties on the 19th March.

A graphic showing energy savings in 2015 at our top seven energy consuming sites

Energy savings in 2015 at our top seven energy consuming sites

Driving change from within, we also have a network of over 60 ‘Green Champions’ throughout the organisation. They do a lot of unseen work in support of changing work-place behaviours, to favour more sustainable practices and encourage things like recycling. They are our ‘green army’ on the ground and an invaluable part of working towards a more sustainable organisation.

These are just a few examples of ways in which we are playing our part in tackling Climate Change. With our next Carbon Management Plan due to be released in the coming months, we are setting our sights towards the future and continuing to improve on the work we have done so far. The award of public body champion we received last year from WWF may not be an Oscar, but we are very pleased to be able to accept the award and to be playing our part in dealing with climate change.


About Author


David Harkin

David works within our Conservation Directorate, looking in detail at the impacts climate change will have on our properties, and the wider historic environment.