Dumfries and Galloway is a large region of about 150,000 people, and one of Scotland's best kept secrets. This also applies to the amazing work D&G orgs and the council have done, and are doing, to combat climate change.
Despite the progress, commitments, and at times pioneering work, D&G is rarely on the climate action radar. For example, there is no climate beacon in the region - in fact, the most Southerly climate beacon is based in Midlothian!
With that in mind, we want to draw attention to some of the progress made in the region.
1. Dumfries and Galloway Council have pledged to be net-zero by 2025.
In June 2019, the council declared a climate emergency. This pledge is incredibly ambitious - one of the most ambitious in Scotland - and the council have set out a 12 point plan to reach this target. They've also appointed an Environment Champion, achieved the UN Carbon Literacy Training Award in Sept 2020 (the first non-metropolitan Scottish Local Authority to do so) and have made the following commitments:
Encourage understanding of how the way we live and work in the region impacts on climate change
Empower our communities and stakeholders to make significant changes to reduce emissions and adapt to a low carbon approach
Lead on the transition to cleaner and greener technologies
Promote and protect our region's natural environment
Contribute to a greener economy, maximising the region's green energy potential
2. Dumfries and Galloway is the "birthplace of renewables"
Windy Standard was the first onshore consented windfarm in Scotland. Robin Rigg was the first offshore windfarm in the UK. The Galloway Hydro Scheme was the first large-scale integrated hydro-electric complex to be built in the UK.
And we have the global headquarters of Natural Power, an independent consultant and service provider that only works on green energy projects, in Castle Douglas.
3. We have Scotland's First Biosphere.
We have the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, recognised internationally as a world-class environment for people and nature. The biosphere has an amazing array of landscapes, wildlife, and heritage and is working to manage them in the most sustainable way.
Our Biosphere will have its 10th anniversary in 2022 and is well-placed among its network of over 700 other biospheres worldwide. If you live in the area of Rhins of Galloway, you may want to look at the potential boundary expansion that the Biosphere is suggesting.
All Biospheres around the world share three main functions:
Conservation: promoting the preservation of wildlife, habitats and landscape.
Learning: supporting a better understanding of nature and global issues.
Development: fostering a sustainable economy and society.
4. We have Britain's largest Forest Park
Galloway Forest Park was established in 1947 and includes ancient woods, hills, water, and a lot of history. Some of the special wildlife that can be seen here include the endangered red squirrels and golden eagles. The Park includes Scotland's first Dark Sky Park (which was also 4th in the world, and established in 2009), which means that the skies are incredibly dark and light pollution is tightly controlled. Both of these designations mean that a lot of work is done to keep the area sustainable and well managed.
Not only that, but there is support building for a Galloway National Park, which would encompass these areas and further protect our natural and cultural assets.
Further East in the region, Langholm had a huge community buy-out of land previously owned by Buccleuch Estates - the land is now being turned into the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve.
5. D&G has a lot of pioneering projects tackling climate change.
There are too many to list them all, but here are a few examples.
Galloway Footsteps: This Galloway Glens initiative worked with Giki to teach people sustainable and achievable ways of reducing their carbon footprint. It covered four topics - What we Buy, What we Eat, Inside the Home, and Outside the Home - and worked with many partners in their areas of expertise to showcase what can be done, and to highlight resources in D&G already doing great work - such as farmer's markets and refill shops. You can read more about the initiatives in our blogs here and here, or watch the recordings of the Galloway Glens youtube channel. Happily, the programme is being rolled out across the Biosphere.
Future Ready and Climate Ready Ken: Loch Ken Trust uses the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to plan their way towards sustainable and resilient "Future-Ready" communities, and have partnered with Adaptation Scotland to become prepared for, and resilient to, climate change - "Climate Ready". The latter initiative chose two sites to work with, one being Loch Ken Trust, and the other in Aberdeenshire.
EASOS: The Environmental Alliance for the South of Scotland is facilitated by us and Southern Uplands Partnership. This alliance works with a unified voice to further the environmental progress for the region, especially in valuing our natural capital and land-use. You can see more on our webpage here.
NTS Threave Landscape Restoration Project: An 81ha area which was previously intensive farmland will become a fully restored wetland-woodland habitat. The emphasis here is not to recreate what has been lost from the past, but to reimagine the future. In a time where land-use is constantly researched and debated over due to its part in climate change, NTS Threave are making real progress in research and trialing new technologies around sustainable land use & management. Managing livestock from smartphones, undraining land, and trailing woodland replanting methods - NTS Threave are ones to watch.
Biosphere Explorers: This is our environmental education project, building on the very successful 7 year Carbon Busters legacy. Biosphere Explorers teaches pupils in the Galloway Glens region about the biosphere, sustainability, and climate change. We created a fantastic pack of 6 lessons that will guide teachers, homeschoolers, and interested families in teaching children about these topics, as well as some games, experiments, and locations to facilitate the learning. You can take a look at these online here. As always, our thanks to Galloway Glens for funding the project.
Many of these projects could be rolled out to other regions, or could be inspiration in similar projects - after all, there's no point re-inventing the wheel.
Of course, there are loads of other regions within Scotland doing amazing things, and plenty we haven't mentioned within D&G. It's worth keeping your ears to the ground, as most projects and organisations aren't always great at shouting about their successes.
Hopefully with this blog you know a bit more about D&G's successes - but what have we missed? What amazing projects or progress does your region have in tackling climate change?