Positive report from Highland Council on Public Bodies Climate Change Duties & more work to do

Affordable housing ullapool solar by ewenweatherspoon
Affordable housing in Ullapool with solar PVs: Ewen Weatherspoon

Members of Highland Council’s Climate Change Working Group today (28 January 2022) noted the local authority’s annual report for 2020/21 under Public Bodies Climate Change Duties.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and the subsequent Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 (“the Act’) places specific duties on public bodies relating to climate change.

In 2015, the Scottish Government introduced an Order under the Act requiring all public bodies to submit an annual report detailing their compliance with the climate change duties

This report, which was also considered at the last Economy and Infrastructure Committee, provides an update to the Scottish Government on how The Highland Council is performing in respect of its duties and was submitted ahead of the report deadline of 30 November 2021.

Whilst it is the case that a significant proportion of the Council’s reduction in emissions can be attributed to the greening of the electricity sector, several internal projects and initiatives have also significantly contributed to this.

These include the following:

  • the replacement of sodium streetlights with LEDs. This has reduced the energy consumption from our streetlighting estate from 18.3MWh in 2011/12 to 11.2MWh in 2020/21
  • the widescale replacement of oil-fired boilers with renewable energy heating systems, which has reduced the carbon footprint from oil consumption from 11,219tCO2e in 2011/12 to 4,391tCO2e in 2019/20 – a 61% reduction
  • Solar PV deployment – through the Salix recycling fund, 2MW of solar PV panels have been installed across the Council’s estate, reducing the annual reliance on grid supplied electricity by around 1.3m kWh, thus reducing the local authority’s corporate carbon footprint whilst also removing some of the risk associated with increasing electricity costs.

Chair of the Climate Change Working Group, Cllr Trish Robertson, said: “It is recognised that the Council’s electricity consumption remains its biggest single source of carbon emissions and the area which requires most work if the organisation is to achieve net zero emissions in the future.

“Given that the cost of electricity continues to increase year on year, it is critical that the Council finds ways to either reduce its overall consumption of electricity, or to generate much more of its own renewable electricity; this is limited to a fairly significant extent because of grid capacity issues across much of the region.”

Looking ahead to next year’s report, it is important to acknowledge the continued impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Council’s carbon emissions for 2021/22.  Lockdown and the requirements on staff to largely work from home will undoubtedly have had a positive impact on the associated emissions from the Council’s consumption of energy, as well as from staff travel, fleet, waste, and water consumption.

At a meeting of The Highland Council on 10th December 2022, Members agreed to a range of recommendations which will shift the net zero agenda forward over the course of the coming months and years.

  • Net Zero Strategy Group - The Council will establish a Net Zero Strategy Group (NZSG), which will deliver a corporately coordinated strategy and costed action plan that sets out key targets, milestones and budget 20 implications for approval and regular monitoring by the full Council and the Climate Change Working Group
  • Communications Strategy – it is the intention over the course of 2022 to develop a structured and pro-active communications strategy and plan to support the Council’s Climate Action activity, whilst carbon literacy training will also be rolled out for both staff and Member alongside a series of climate change seminars throughout the year
  • Transformation Fund – funding requests will be made to the Transformation Fund in March 2022 with a view to ensuring that resources within the Climate Change and Energy Team are sufficient to provide the strategic leadership and expertise required to meet net zero obligations.

Further information

The Public Bodies Climate Change Duty report is divided into five required sections:

  1. Organisational profile, detailing key statistics about the organisation (e.g. size of the estate and number of employees);
  2. Governance, Management and Strategy relating to climate change
  3. Details of the Council’s own ‘corporate’ emissions from its estate, services and functions, including details of the top 10 carbon reduction projects as well as targets for reducing carbon emissions
  4. Details on steps taken to adapt to the risks and impacts of climate change including priority action areas for the year ahead
  5. Information on how sustainable procurement practices are contributing to climate change goals and targets.
28 Jan 2022