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The First Gaelic Climate Convention

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

The conversation surrounding climate change and cooperation within the international system often ignores language and cultural barriers. There is an assumption that all of the information needed can be translated into English without adaptation based on a community’s needs or priorities. The Scottish Outer Hebrides and surrounding regions are particularly vulnerable to climate change due to their geographical location and their topography. In the world’s first Gaelic climate convention, the conversation will finally be centred around the priorities of communities in the Outer Hebrides.

The convention will take place on 8 November at Cnoc Soilleir, a centre for Gaelic culture, language, and music in South Uist, Scotland. It is being staged by the Outer Hebrides Climate Beacon and Climate Hebrides. Speakers have been invited from across the Outer Hebrides to discuss the climate crisis and how to adapt as highly vulnerable coastal communities. Gaelic is the first language of the Outer Hebrides, and over 52 per cent of the population speak it regularly. It remains the largest population of Gaelic speakers in Scotland, which is why a convention connecting this language and current affairs is so important.

The speakers and committee will focus on adding climate-related terms to the Gaelic vocabulary. By exploring these new terms, they’ll be able to both keep Gaelic alive and participate more fully in the international climate agenda. The language and cultural barrier in place may allow more powerful nations to disregard the priorities of regions like the Outer Hebrides. However, a translation and connection between the climate conversation and the Gaelic language and culture would promote their concerns.

This convention will also discuss Scotland’s Just Transition plan. This was implemented by the Scottish Government in order to transform how Scotland generates, transports, and uses energy in an effort to reach a zero-carbon energy system. It proposes an increase in sustainable energy sources like solar power and hydropower, a full stop to exploration for North Sea oil, and an increase from 13.4 gigawatts (GW) of renewable electricity generation capacity to 20 GW by 2030.

For communities in the Outer Hebrides, discussing the Just Transition plan means more than attempting to reach net zero; it focuses on adaptation. While reaching net zero and lowering emissions is vital to ensuring the safety of future generations, changes are happening now, and massively impacting coastal communities. For the Outer Hebrides, the goal now is to adapt to these changes and make sure that agricultural needs are being met and safety measures are in place. As sea levels rise and flooding increases, both homes and farms are at risk. Without adaptation and improving infrastructure, the race to net zero will be in vain.

This Gaelic climate conference is a step in the right direction in ensuring that the conversation around sustainability adapts based on the region in question. If you aren’t able to make the trek to the Outer Hebrides on November 8th, a virtual live stream will take place for those who wish to join remotely.

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