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New grant scheme will support community groups in Highlands with climate change projects


By Alan Hendry

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The Highlands and Islands Climate Change Community Grant aims to make a difference locally while building momentum from COP26.
The Highlands and Islands Climate Change Community Grant aims to make a difference locally while building momentum from COP26.

A new grant scheme will offer funding of up to £4500 to help community groups in the Highlands and Islands work with a researcher to run projects exploring local climate change issues.

The Highlands and Islands Climate Change Community Grant was launched this week by the British Science Association (BSA). The scheme is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and aims to make a difference locally while building momentum from the recent COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow.

Community groups – especially those that do not typically engage with science, research and innovation – are invited to apply for funding to support projects based on a new idea or building on existing work by the community that would benefit from partnership with a researcher.

The BSA and UKRI say they are particularly keen to hear from communities about projects that focus on ways of adapting to the effects of climate change – such as extreme weather events or decreased air quality.

Applications will be open until January 31, 2022, and funded projects are expected to run from April to October 2022.

Last month, ahead of COP26, the Office for National Statistics’ Opinions and Lifestyle Survey revealed that 75 per cent of adults in the UK said they were worried about the impact of climate change. For 43 per cent, the feeling of anxiousness about the future of the environment increased in the run-up to the UN conference.

Additional research from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Public Attitudes Tracker highlighted that 82 per cent of people agreed that if everyone did their bit, together, the effects of climate change could be reduced.

Kate Orchard, head of community engagement at the British Science Association.
Kate Orchard, head of community engagement at the British Science Association.

Kate Orchard, head of community engagement at the BSA, said: “When developing this grant scheme, we explored two questions – ‘How could we build on the momentum from COP26 to enable communities to make a local difference on climate change?’ and ‘How could we support community groups in the Highlands and Islands to explore local action on climate change by connecting them with a researcher?’

“The result was the Highlands and Islands Climate Change Community Grant scheme, which we hope will nurture and develop residents’ ideas by supporting diverse communities to use research to respond to climate change on their own terms.

“With funding from UKRI, we are delighted to build on the interest and excitement of COP26 to reach far beyond negotiations in Glasgow into local communities in the Highlands and Islands. We’re looking forward to supporting successful applicants to deliver the aims and ambitions of the scheme.”

Tom Saunders, head of public engagement at UKRI, said: “We are committed to enabling the public to actively engage with research and innovation. With the urgent issue of climate change, there are many communities and places across the UK that are likely to be disproportionately affected but who do not tend to have opportunities to be part of the conversation about the research and innovation which can address these challenges.

"We are delighted, therefore, to be working with the British Science Association to enable communities in the Highlands and Islands, especially those underrepresented in engagement with research and innovation, to work with researchers to explore how climate change may affect them and where they live.”

The BSA will be working with Scottish-based educational organisation Science Ceilidh to provide support to community groups and researchers throughout the grant scheme process.

Lewis Hou, founder and director of Science Ceilidh, said: "We are really excited to be working alongside the BSA and UKRI on this new grant to support communities and connect them with researchers to explore ways to handle climate change.

“At Science Ceilidh, we already know the Highlands and Islands are hubs for community-led climate action and innovation, actively responding to both local and global challenges – from the role of cultural organisations and libraries sparking creative conversations through climate beacons for COP26, to the many community organisations, social enterprises and schools working to look at hyper-local adaptations to the climate crisis.”

Full details of the grant scheme, including how to apply and what projects are eligible, can be found on the British Science Association website.

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