Highland invests in combatting climate change

Councillors today approved a £145,000 investment to ensure Highland Council meets its commitment to tackle climate change.

Members at today’s full meeting of Highland Council were today asked to agree the resource requirements, which will provide a platform for the region to become the low carbon centre for Scotland.

At a meeting of Highland Council in May members agreed that the Council declare a climate and ecological emergency.

It was agreed to establish a Climate Change Panel, which would have responsibility for oversight of climate change work across the Council, make recommendations around new climate change targets and to consult Highland communities around our approach to tackling the climate emergency.

At a meeting of the panel on 26 November it was agreed that the Council’s aspiration should be to reposition Highland as a low co2 region and develop a framework around this vision – making best use of our natural resources, offering opportunities for carbon friendly investment/offsetting, identifying critical projects and leading on more carbon efficient public services. It was also recognised there is a need to examine Highland assets, for example, our renewables, forestry, land base, what we can potentially offer the rest of the country and become an exemplar in respect of how a region can address the climate and ecological emergency.

Highland Council will ensure funding opportunities can be identified early and presented to the Scottish Government as “shovel ready,” projects.

There is already a significant amount of work underway throughout the Council – through the Change Programme – including the Grey Fleet project, Integrated Transport (public transport and active travel), Asset Rationalisation, Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Energy and Renewables.

Executive Chief Officer for Infrastructure and Environment, Malcolm MacLeod, said: “The best way of achieving our outcomes is to seek external assistance in pulling together the various strands of work already underway and matching those against the Scottish Government’s national programme.

“This short piece of work is estimated to cost a maximum of £25K, which will effectively be spent to save, given the significant funding streams that Scottish Government has committed to.

“Part of this work will also cover the development of the wider vision to reposition Highland as a low carbon area.”

He added: “Members will recognise the scale of the Council’s challenge and ambition following the declaration of the climate and ecological emergency and the aspiration to reach a net zero Highland by 2025.”

Given the increased importance and prominence of climate change across the Council it is proposed that there needs to be a Climate Change Manager to lead the work and provide a sufficient level of seniority within the organisation, supported by a minimum of two officers. The net additional cost of these posts is £75K.

Additional funding of £20K is also sought to complete carbon baseline work for the region, £15K is needed for each of the next three years to support the employment of a Project Manager to oversee the Highland Adapts initiative, which aims to create a partnership, place based approach to climate change risk in Highland.

It is also seen as opportune to host a Climate Change Seminar in Spring 2020 and £10K would be required to run that.

Mr MacLeod added: “Members will recognise the key challenges as well as the very real opportunities for the Council in terms of addressing our climate and ecological emergency. By making these changes there is huge potential to lever in significant funds and reposition the Highlands as the low carbon centre for Scotland. The investment is just the first step.”


9 Dec 2019