Covid-19 and beyond: working from home towards a green recovery

It’s been just over a month since the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown began and much of the nation, CXC included, began an unprecedented experiment in home working at scale. We are lucky in that remote working was already very much part of CXC’s work culture: our research partners are scattered across Scotland, the UK and beyond. Most of the secretariat team were already set up to work from home and, thanks to Microsoft Teams, we still get our “water cooler” moments via a daily 10am catch-up over coffee.

In these times we recognise just how fortunate we are in many ways. And our work commissioning and managing research to support Scotland’s low-carbon transition has not suffered the widespread disruption experienced elsewhere. Last week our colleagues in the Scottish Government approved the first tranche of CXC research for 2020-21. We will start work on eight projects; others will be scoped out across Government for later in the year and we’ll respond to specific requests as they arise. Half the projects kicking off in the next couple of months relate to energy, with significant emphasis on approaches to decarbonising heat. Others include work on incentivising low carbon industrial products in Scotland and on international approaches to financing adaptation to climate change. And we will be looking at Covid-19 through a green prism, commissioning a study of sustainable behaviour changes in the recovery period.

We had thought these would be among our final projects under our current contract with the Scottish Government. However, because of the pandemic, the CXC programme has been extended and is set to continue until March 2022.

In the meantime, we have reviewed all our ‘live’ research projects and assessed the potential impact of the pandemic on their delivery. Given we have just passed our year end, we have several pieces of research at the final report stage. Publication may slip a little depending on staff availability, within the Scottish Government, research providers or CXC. For ongoing research, projects involving stakeholder engagement may also experience some delays.

Understandably, significant climate events and programmes have been delayed, for example, November’s COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow and the update to Scotland’s Climate Change Plan, one of the key policy documents directing our work. But, as Dave Reay, our Policy Director, has noted, it has been encouraging to see the Scottish Government pledge to put a “green recovery” at the heart of its plans to revive the economy.

It is also heartening that tackling the climate emergency remains a public priority. Polling published by Ipsos Mori last week shows that 66% of Britons believe that, in the long term, climate change is as serious a crisis as Covid-19. Well over half (58%) also believe climate change should be prioritised in the economic recovery. Events such as this month’s 50th anniversary of Earth Day can help build the momentum: the archive of its three-day livestream includes webinars on what a fair and climate-friendly recovery could look like.

For now, keep well and keep safe. We look forward to the lockdown lifting and to supporting Scotland’s “green recovery” in any way we can.