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Source: Scotland – Highland Council

Members of the Corporate Resources Committee are united in agreeing that ‘Carbon Budgeting’ recommendations arising from the Economy and Infrastructure Committee should be considered by The Highland Council.

Leader of The Highland Council, Cllr Margaret Davidson said: “There was a strong feeling from councillors on Wednesday 11 November, that given the commitment and primary importance in targeting the climate and ecological emergency it would be good to investigate developing a carbon budgeting approach to the allocation of Council resources.”

Malcolm MacLeod – Executive Chief Officer – Infrastructure and Environment explained: “As part of the council’s commitment to climate change action, the Council will be working over the coming months to identify an appropriate target date to achieve net zero emissions from our operations.  Once that target date has been agreed by Members, and in order to share responsibility for climate action corporately, it is proposed that the Council develops an annual carbon budget, apportioned between services, with the aim of keeping the Council on track to meet its emissions reduction targets.  Once this process has been established, it should then be easier to examine financial budgets and assess where these can best support climate change action.”

The Climate Change report submitted to the Corporate Resources Committee provides an overview of a number of workstreams and projects which are underway between Highland Council and where appropriate with partners, to address the climate & ecological emergency. It also outlines critical next steps which should be considered by members to ensure the Council’s commitment to climate and ecological emergency action is met and that the principals of a just transition to net zero are embedded within the wider economic recovery work.

From a legislative perspective, the Scottish Government set stretching new climate change targets in 2019 under the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, in response to its own declaration of a climate emergency. These targets, which all public bodies in Scotland are legally bound to support, aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 and to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change no later than 2045.  This plays an important role for target setting and is pivotal to achieving a carbon neutral Highland by 2025, but to date a formal target to achieve net zero direct emissions is yet to be set by the Council. 

Keith Masson – Climate change Officer, reported that achieving our climate change goals can only be achieved by embedding climate action throughout the Council’s service delivery and setting a ‘carbon budget’ will go some way to supporting the ongoing work and commitment of the Climate Change Working Group.  There is considerable political and operational risk if the Council doesn’t meet the targets set out in its declaration of a climate and ecological emergency.

He said: “We should keep sight of the significant opportunities and potential to position the Highland region at the forefront of green innovation and environmental change.  It’s essential to continue to raise awareness of climate change issues and opportunities among the Council’s senior leadership team and elected Members to provide confidence to the community and to external funders that we are taking this issue seriously, and that we have the commitment of The Highland Council and the wider community to make real climate action over the coming years.

“Many of the high priority projects and initiatives being undertaken by the climate change team will undoubtedly deliver improved levels of carbon reduction if low carbon action is embedded into every aspect of THC’s service delivery moving forward. It requires joined up thinking, a recognition that climate change is happening right now and that time is of the essence. However, the benefit of robust climate action doesn’t stop with carbon reductions, it can and should deliver cost savings for the Council if we deliver the right projects and factor in the life cycle costs of particular interventions.”

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