THE First Minister has claimed the lives of Scots across the country need to radically change in order to meet ambitious targets to cut emissions aimed at preventing global warming beyond a point that scientists say will lead to ecological disaster.

Announcing plans for a Big Climate Conversation, with details unveiled this week, Nicola Sturgeon told delegates at the World Forum on Climate Justice in Glasgow last week that, to cut climate emissions to net zero by 2045, widespread changes would be needed. “We will need to change how we work, how we travel, how we keep our homes warm and how we design our towns and cities,” she said.

But what will these changes really look like? How can we make the transition to the more sustainable society we need? The Sunday National spoke to some of Scotland’s leading experts about how our daily lives will need to change.

1. How we eat
What we eat is one of the biggest levers for getting to net zero, according to scientists. “Moderating meat consumption and designing waste out of our food system from farm to fridge both open up huge opportunities to restore biodiversity and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” says Pete Ritchie of Nourish, a charity campaigning for improvements to our food system.

But he claims that it’s not just about adopting a vegan diet as much as cutting back on meat. While individual choices are part of the picture, more important, he claims, are the big catering companies and supermarkets. “Tesco’s recent ‘meat and veg’ range is designed for customers who want to eat less meat as well as eat more veg,” he points out.

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Others have suggested that meat-free menus in schools, hospitals and prisons to lower our emissions should be looked at, with others suggesting heavy taxes on carbon-heavy produce.

We also need to learn to use what we have. Last week, research by Bosch VitaFresh found households in Scotland are throwing away 27,768 tonnes of edible vegetables at home each year, with more than three quarters of us admitting to buying fresh veg rather than use what’s in the fridge. That’s not going to be an option for much longer.

2. How we produce our food
All of this poses important questions over the impact on farming – some 80% of Scotland’s land mass is under agricultural production, making the industry the single biggest determinant of the landscape we see around us. Scotland’s farmers, crofters and growers produce output worth around £2.9 billion a year and are responsible for much of Scotland’s £5bn food and drink exports.

“What does this mean for Scotland’s farmers, many of whom depend on livestock products?” asks Ritchie. “Even in a static global market, there is plenty of room for livestock products which demonstrate excellent animal welfare and climate-friendly, nature-friendly methods of production. Less and better meat, rather than veganism, is likely to drive change over the next 25 years. But if we continue, in Scotland and globally, to waste a third of the food we grow, we will struggle to reach net zero.”

3. How we shop
Packing will need to go, according to campaigners and policy-makers alike. There are already positive moves – earlier this month Sainsbury’s became the first UK supermarket to remove plastic for its loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items and by September customers will be able to bring their own bags for these products. But the only shops operating a zero-waste policy tend to be specialist organic retailers like Glasgow’s Locavore.

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, says we need to see the widespread adoption of “zero waste stores”, where customers bring their own reusable bags and tubs, if we want to see emissions drop.

“Bringing your own packaging will be familiar to older generations and is something that we can achieve, it just needs a bit of forethought,” he says. “The growth of zero waste stores shows this approach can be a success and is an area that a section of the population is already embracing.”

4. How we settle for second hand
Another necessary change will be the growth in second-hand goods, he insists. The organisation has created a certification scheme, where products checked against modern safety standards and marked with the Revolve logo, are sold in shops across Scotland with the aim of increasing customer confidence. “Whether it is clothing, electricals or toys, giving a longer life to what we have produced will reduce the amount of materials we consume and transport,” adds Gulland. “The knock-on effect will be a reduction in the amount of greenhouse gases produced in extraction and transportation, and depletion of resources.”

5. How we throw away less
Key to changing how we buy is getting our heads around the need to throw away less. Repair Cafes, such as those run by Glasgow’s Kinning Park Complex (KPC) – which fix all your broken stuff, from toasters to bikes – need to become the norm again, it is argued.

According to Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, the effects of global warming in coming years may help make that worth our while. Storms might make people think twice about what they import, he argues, and whether that is financially viable, while climate disasters in some of the developing countries which import our fast fashion might seriously effect the industry, with devastating impact on the lives of workers.

One thing that might make us concentrate on the need to address the issue, argues Dixon, is the question of what we do with our rubbish in years to come. “China don’t want it any more so it’s being sent to Vietnam or Laos, but soon enough they are not going to want it either,” he says.

“We are going to be faced with what to do with it, and that might help focus our minds. The concept is that we should be aiming to create circular economies – we re-use a glass milk bottle until it breaks and then we recycle it and turn it into a new glass milk bottle and on it goes.”

In May it was confirmed that Scotland would be the first UK nation to introduce a bottle deposit scheme, with people receiving 20p back for returns. The incentive is expected to massively increase recycling rates. Now the challenge is to create other schemes that continue the trend.

6. How we use our land
One of the clearest predictions about climate change is how it will change the landscape around us. Rising sea levels will see devastating coastal erosion and extreme weather will lead to flooding and draughts and forest fires.

In May the UN warned that one million species were now facing extinction, with devastating effects on our fragile ecosystems predicted as a result. Professor David Reay, climate change scientist at Edinburgh University and think tank ClimateXChange, says: “The declines in many bird and insect species have been precipitous in the past few decades. Habitat loss is a major driver and the expansion in forests, hedgerows and restored peatlands required as part of a net zero transition has the potential to halt and then reverse these declines.”

The use of peat for growing our geraniums will have to stop, he adds. “Our peat bogs are huge carbon stocks, play a key role in limiting flood risks and improving water quality, and support a wealth of biodiversity too. They take many centuries to recover.”

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And forest cover across the country will need to increase from about 20% today to 30% in the next couple of decades, he claims, with many trees being planted on fields that were formerly used for grazing – but with some serious caveats. “Putting the right trees in the right place will be crucial as they need to be able to withstand future climate change and not take up land that would be more productive for food production,” he says. “There’s no point in taking good farming land out of use if we then have to import more food.”

7. How we store our data
It drives our contemporary world but we’re going to have to get a grip on our data and the substantial environmental footprint of our data centres, which must be kept cool. “It’s true that every time we access data on the cloud or search Google that has a carbon footprint,” says Dixon. “But we are not being very proactive in talking about that.”

He claims that we may need to enforce caps on personal and business data use. “If you live in a house and run out of space on your bookshelves you might have to get rid of some of the books. The same will have to apply to the digital realm.”

But he also says the problem offers opportunities for Scotland. Last June Microsoft launched an experimental pilot, which saw a shipping-container sized data centre prototype lowered on the sea floor just off the Orkney Islands. Cooled naturally by the seawater around it, it could become the norm, argues Dixon. “There could be many more moored in the North Sea, he says. There are already sheds in Iceland that are powered with renewable energy – that’s the future rather than warehouses in California or Edinburgh. There is a huge opportunity for the North of Scotland.”

8. How we generate power
The first thing we need to do, it is claimed by industry experts and NGOs, is accept that our reliance on fossil fuels simply needs to come to an end. There has been progress – last week it was announced that more UK electricity is to come from zero-carbon sources than from fossil fuels this year – a first since the industrial revolution. Wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower are on course to outstrip supply from coal and gas-fired power stations.

But the next stages are likely to be harder, according to Nigel Holmes Chief Executive of the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA). “We have to recognise we’re going from a situation where fossil fuels have provided a straight-forward solution and the next stage means we will not have such an easy choice. There are going to be electric cars, and biofuels and hydrogen could be part of that picture.” He claims that even within the sector, hydrogen is not seen as a “silver bullet”. But points to exciting projects in Orkney – including its Surf and Turf project that converts take excess electricity from renewable energy sources into hydrogen. that highlight its potential to help cut our emissions.

“At the moment you have a perverse situation where the wind turbines might get a request from the grid generation to stop production and yet a few streets away you have a household struggling to afford energy to heat their home,” he says. The project aims to change that. “If we are going to adhere [to the targets} we have to be thinking very carefully about how we make it acceptable to the consumer and we need to make sure that power is affordable.”

He and Richard Dixon claim power systems of the future are likely to be more localised – roof solar panels are getting cheaper and will become the norm, while district heating systems are likely to be installed in new developments. But there might still be cost implications, claims Dixon, with cheap tariffs available for“basic useage” and more expensive one available thereafter.

9. How we travel
We all know we’re going to have to cut down on air travel – popping over to Paris by plane for the weekend can no longer be a viable option, according to Nigel Holmes. And closer to home it’s not with the gas guzzlers and in with electric cars, which could be plugged in overnight and used to “store” excess energy from renewables that could be sold back to the grid when it required.

It’s clear that the push on cycling and walking needs to continue, with more investment needed in creating more joined up networks, according to active travel campaigners and organisations such as Sustrans. But it’s also about ensure more public-transport friendly policies too – as well as the funding necessary to see better networks established.

How they are fuelled is important too – plans for the first Hydrogen buses have just been unveiled in London, and according to Holmes the lessons learnt on Orkney need to be applied more generally to the transport network, with plans for hydrogen fuelled ferries in the offing.

10. How we run our business … and do our jobs
According to Dave Reay, transition involves accepting the end of some industries, but also sees the creation of new ones. It’s also time to rethink how we think about growth. “On growth, the simple metric of GDP is poor at reflecting the costs and benefits of the changes net zero requires,” he says. “It only reflects the flows of money, rather than the huge stocks of so-called ‘natural capital’ we have in our soils, water and forests, our biodiversity, culture and people. It also fails to reflect our wellbeing and sustainability.

“That said, if we get net zero right then it will likely boost even GDP. The estimated cost of delivering net zero is 1-2% of GDP, but then this is balanced by the savings from avoided climate change impacts, cleaner air and improved human health. Importantly for Scotland, we are well placed to become the European hub of low and zero carbon innovation and development, such as in renewables and carbon storage, meaning greater exports and much more investment from other nations.”

There’s also the need to make sure that the transition of old industries, such as oil and gas to new ones, such as renewables is a just one. “A major challenge is achieving a just transition for Scotland’s work force - one that fully supports re-skilling and new job creation where required and that reduces the risks to livelihoods of workers in ‘high carbon’ sectors like oil and gas or some livestock agriculture,” he adds. “Scotland boasts an enormous amount of expertise in both these sectors, expertise that will be crucial in delivering net zero through, for instance, Carbon Capture and Storage and through more efficient, lower emission Scottish meat and dairy. There is a risk that these sectors and businesses are made the scapegoats of climate change when in fact they can be champions for action.”