Climate Change progress is being made by Council

The Chair and Vice Chair of Highland Council’s Climate Change Committee met with climate protestors today (22 September 2022) at Council headquarters in Inverness. They discussed a wide range of issues in relation to the Council’s approach to the climate change and ecological emergency, responding to a number of concerns raised by the group and provided assurance of progress being made across a range of approaches.

Councillor Karl Rosie said: “As Chair of the newly formed Climate Change Committee, I am very pleased that the Council has reinforced its commitment to climate change by raising the profile of the previous Climate Change Working Group to a formally constituted Climate Change Committee. I can also provide assurance that no decisions have been made about reducing the Council’s commitments to net zero. Quite the Opposite.”

Responding to several factors raised by the group; on the matter of green infrastructure development Cllr Karl Rosie said: “Regarding Active travel infrastructure, the Council has committed £600K for the next 5 years, rising to £850K for the following 5 years across Highland and we are currently developing a new Sustainable Transport strategy for the region.  A £10.6 M scheme -   Inverness City Active Travel Network is being delivered by the Council and Sustrans on active travel infrastructure at Raigmore, Millburn, Academy Street and the riverside.

“Through the City and Region Deal, the Scottish Government has awarded The Highland Council initial funding of £2.7M to unlock up to £50M for public transport; £1.6M for Cycling, Walking and Safer Routes for 2022/23, and £109M for transport through the City and Region Deal.”

The Council is working hard to realise its green commitments, he added: “Five additional posts are being recruited to the Council’s climate and energy team to drive forward the net zero strategy at pace; and 2 new ecological posts will provide additional benefits to major applications and developments across the Highland enabling the Council (in discussion with UHI) to explore Carbon sequestration across the region.

“Over the last 2 years the Council has secured in excess of £0.5M to deliver the Nature Restoration Fund; is a key partner in the proposed World Heritage Site – the Flows; and the Council has commissioned UHI and Strathclyde University to explore improving the local benefit from renewable energy generation.

Councillor Kate Willis said “We had a really good discussion with the representatives of the Group about green energy opportunities and the unparalleled prospects offered by Highland’s abundant natural resources.  Like them, we are very ambitious about maximising this potential for the benefit of Highland communities, particularly in the context of the current fuel crisis.  The case for moving away from fossil fuels has never been greater. 

“With Nature Scot the Council also co-funds a new Biodiversity Partnership Officer post to further the need for Biodiversity/Climate change improvements; and the Council is working with the Hydrogen sector to establish a sustainable green hydrogen economy within the region.”

Cllr Rosie explained the EV charging provision currently in Highland, he said: “While Highland Council serves the largest local authority geographical area in the UK there are currently 288 charge points in the region of which 37% are owned and operated by The Highland Council. Five gaps within the Council’s owned and operated infrastructure are filled by private operators.  However, we also acknowledge the need to improve both the extent of the network and the reliability of EV provision and this is a priority for us.”

On the matter of the carbon neutral target by 2025 Cllr Rosie said: “In May 2019, in declaring a climate and ecological emergency the Council committed to revisit the Carbon Clever declaration made by the Council in 2012 with a view to updating and working towards a carbon neutral Inverness and low carbon Highlands by 2025. Since 2019 under the remit of the climate change working group, the Council has consistently seen a reduction in reported carbon emissions.”

He added: “As we developed a greater understanding of the issues faced as a region it became clear simply achieving carbon neutrality as a region was not ambitious enough. In 2021 The Highland Council made the commitment to develop a net zero strategy and action plan. 2022 has seen a £2M commitment by the Council to resource the climate change team to deliver a Council wide strategy and deliver an accelerated action plan.”

Cllr Rosie concluded “It has been extremely interesting to meet with representatives from Extinction Rebellion this morning – we share the same goals and desire to see faster fundamental improvements and we look forward to working with them as we go forward.”

Notes to Editors regarding the Council Pension Fund:

  • The Council’s Pension Fund’s Responsible Investment policy was approved by the Highland Council Pension Fund Committee in February 2022. 
  • In 2021, the Fund moved its investment in Baillie Gifford Global Alpha to the Baillie Gifford Global Alpha Paris Aligned fund (aims to address the climate and societal challenges through the net-zero transition by 2050).  In July 2022, the Fund moved its passive equities to track a World Futures Index. 
  • The Fund is a member of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, the European membership body for investor collaboration on climate change and the voice of investors taking actions for a prosperous, low carbon future.
22 Sep 2022