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Meet Mhairi Tordoff and the 2050 Climate Group

2050 Climate Group is a Scottish youth charity. They believe today’s young people are crucial to building a fairer, more sustainable future.

We spoke with Mhairi Tordoff, who is the Operations Coordinator at the 2050 Climate Group.

Her role is primarily to support and coordinate the volunteer team to deliver their projects.  She spoke at our Annual Gathering in Edinburgh last year, and in this piece, she shares a bit more about the 2050 Climate Group and gives some insight into their use and understanding of the ‘upstream’ mindset. 

What we mean by upstream: the upstream mindset is also referred to as prevention work. The more upstream a project, the more it attends to root causes, rather than symptoms which manifest in acute, crisis situations. Upstream action tends to be that which prevents harm from occurring, by tackling the causes of complex issues. Midstream action is that which mitigates harm and, to some extent, prevents it from recurring. Downstream interventions are those which help affected individuals cope with acute harm but doesn’t prevent this harm from returning. 

All are important, and Foundation Scotland is increasingly seeking to ensure that the funding it distributes prevents harm from happening, as well as equipping community organisations to cope with immediate need and the symptoms of more underlying issues.  You can find out more about our work in this area here.

2050 Climate Group

In 2014 the 2020 Climate Group, made up of senior leaders from the private, public and third sector, were looking at climate issues and what climate action meant for Scotland. They recognised that there was a lack of youth leadership and young voices involved in the movement. Working with Young Scot, they held a climate conference by and for young people.  The success of this led to the project being continued.  Supported by Young Scot, it continued to grow and in 2017, the 2050 Climate Group officially began.

What Mhairi said...

Q. Can you sum up the 2050 Climate Group?
“The 2050 Climate Group is youth-led and volunteer-driven, and our whole mission is to empower, equip and enable young people to take climate action.”

Q. Can you talk about current climate issues, and how we evolve the way in which we tackle them?  
“There has been some amazing research done by Climate Outreach. They found that about 80% of young people believe that we have failed to take care of the planet. What we are seeing in terms of young people and climate action at the moment is that there is a huge amount of awareness and concern but that it is not actually translating into young people feeling like they can make a difference.

“A lot of what we see, from both our research and our work on the ground, is that many young people feel powerless to make a difference. A lot of our programmes, events and work are about educating young people about the issues but also about the solutions and the ways they can make change.

“One of the exciting projects that have run this year (2022) was ‘Pint and A Plan’.  We worked with Tennent’s and SEPA (the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) and the project was based around having conversations about climate action in pubs.  We did two events, one in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh, bringing together young people to talk about ways in which they could take climate action.  We looked at transport, consumption, and finances.  We didn’t just talk about what they could do personally but also how they could influence change in their personal lives, professional lives and political lives and take a whole system approach to making change happen.”

Q. 2050 Climate Group is perhaps best known for its Young Leaders Development Programme. Can you tell us about that?

“This programme brings together approximately 150 young people each year from across Scotland to learn how to take climate action in their personal, professional, and civic life. The programme doesn’t just look at the big issue, it asks how can we present effectively?  How can we communicate effectively? How can we get involved with a political campaign? What are the big actions we can take and what are the small actions we can take? This has led young people to take their knowledge and skills into their lives and continue to make positive changes that will have an ongoing positive impact.  These have included things like:

•    Pitching and then helping to implement a more sustainable travel policy in their workplace
•    Having the confidence to engage in public and political campaigns
•    Making personal changes to how they travel, such as flying less
•    Making more sustainable choices in their consumer choices
•    Setting up a sustainable business
•    Engaging in tool libraries
•    Creating a clothes swap shop

Q. By your very nature, as an organisation tackling climate change, you have always considered the upstream mindset and, in a sense, you were created for preventative work? 

“We’ve always have had an upstream mindset. It’s where we have come from and it’s why we were founded. Looking at that long term future and that long term vision.  Even in terms of our name, it comes from our mission that by 2050 we would have a generation of leaders who were able to lead Scotland’s transition to a just and sustainable future. We are keen for young people to know that they don’t need to wait to make change and take climate action. 

“Our hashtag is #2050StartsNow. It’s all about the fact that, as a young generation, we don’t have to wait until we are in positions of power or influence.  You don’t need to be a chief executive, you don’t need to be an MSP, you don’t need to be sat around a board table to make change now.  However, the upstream perspective is looking at 2050 - the young people we work with now may well be in those positions to continue to make positive change. We are always looking for ways to input and enable young people to have their voices heard in the policy making process.”

Q. Tell us about the 2050x Fund 

“This is a fund available to climate action projects run by young people. For example, Jack applied for approximately £1,000 from the 2050x Fund to plant trees on his dad’s farm.  This proved to be a successful project, and he was able to evidence that it was viable and impactful and has since received a significant amount of funding from the Woodland Trust to continue that work. 

"As part of the 2050 Climate Group network, he was able to not only access the original funding to launch the project but also volunteers to help with the tree planting through the connections it provides as well as support and resources for the project. Although this had an immediate impact for Jack and his project, the long-term positive impact will continue and grow for years to come.  Long term, this could lead to nature rejuvenation, reforestation and a positive impact on the environment and the climate itself.  It could also be a project that is replicated in other areas.

“For a lot of people, 2050 Climate Group is a community that inspires each other. If someone has an alternative idea or even wants to chat about energy policy, it is supported and encouraged here. 2050 is a place you can do this.”

Q. And finally, how have Foundation Scotland and the 2050 Climate Group worked together?

“For some time now, the 2050 Climate Group and Foundation Scotland have been working as part of a Scotland-wide cohort to embed the upstream mindset for a better, healthier future, with the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland. Their vision is for an economy designed to deliver good lives for all on a healthy planet, which is an aspiration we share with Foundation Scotland. We also received funding through the Baillie Gifford Fund which is managed by Foundation Scotland.”

Ways to get involved:

  • The Leaders Network is always running and is available to people aged 18-35 who are interested in climate action.  There are approximately 800 young people already taking part in this.
  • You can also find more information about their Young Leaders Development Programme which has modules available to the public too.
  • A few people who were involved in the creation of the 2050 Climate Group are also involved in the Wellbeing Economy  Alliance Scotland.  You can find out more about our work with them here
  • Click here to find out more about the 2050 Climate Group and their great work