Minutes 12 April 2021

Climate Change Update Meeting- DRAFT Minutes

Date & Time: 12 April 2021 at 7:00 PM

Location: Zoom Web Conference

Present: Betty Wright, Chair (BW); Silvia Muras, Vice Chair (SM); Marion Turner, Secretary (MT); John Denniston, Treasurer (JD); Andy Wright (AW); Buster Crabb (BC); Rob Pope (RP); Anna McInnes,  Minutes Secretary (AM)

Also attending: Anna Patfield, Planet Sutherland (AP); Norman MacDonald, Creich Community Council (NM)

Apologies: None

Guest Speaker: Joe Perry, Climate Change Co-ordinator with Highland Council (JP)



Welcome / Introductions

BW opened meeting and welcomed attendees, noting invitation was also extended to Creich Community Council. BW also introduced AM, new minutes secretary taking over from Mary Goulder. BW welcomed Joe Perry (JP), Climate Change Coordinator

from The Highland Council (THC), who is here to give an update on how THC are addressing the climate & ecological emergency that was declared 2 years ago, and how we are working towards a green recovery.

2 Presentation from Joe Perry, Climate Change Co-ordinator for Highland Council

JP thanked everyone for invite and posing thoughtful questions that helped to structure his presentation. A big part of his job is talking to communities about what climate change is. He presented slides based on the following questions:

1. What can individuals, community groups, and schools do?

JP: Scale of emergency means everyone needs to engage at every level from individual to government. We can drive change from bottom up e.g. recycling, cutting carbon footprint, support green companies, invest in reusable products, voting for like-minded parties, but still need to keep pressure for change from the top, requires responsibility from countries causing climate issues such as emissions. Every time someone commits we move one step away from worst-case scenario.

2. Do you think we have the correct timescale? What can we say to reassure young people (& others!) who feel things are not moving quickly enough?

JP: 2021 UN Climate Change Conference to be held in UK. Goal is to limit global warming and limit most catastrophic effects of climate change. Ambitious targets now being set for 2050 using Paris Agreement, varies from country to country but global target is to get global warming below 2 degrees at very least. Action is difficult, science is not understood, influential industries/lobbyists reduce impact. Good news is in Scotland we are exceeding targets of Paris Agreement, and are the global leader on climate change. The best course of action right now is flexibility.

3. THC produces more Green Energy than any other local area in Scotland (& UK), can THC work with developers to progress use of this energy locally – for example introducing storage for electricity when not required on grid (to avoid restraint payments & possibly to be then sold to local users). We should be working towards a Smart Local Energy Grid where Energy can be produced, stored & used locally.

JP: THC is looking into this such as storage for electricity when not required on grid, smart local energy, collaboration between local partners and energy companies to secure local benefits. Currently there is no capacity to handle the energy being produced. We are powerhouse of UK energy, we should be getting more benefit.

He isn’t involved and doesn’t know a lot about the work being done on this, but offered to look into it and report back for future meetings.

4. Which policy items fall within remit of THC v Scottish Government?

JP: Provided breakdown of how policy flows down via the Paris Agreement from the UK as a whole, to Scotland, through to local work in the Highlands:

• UK Wide: In 2015 UK signed up to Paris Agreement. UK is one of leading nations when meeting targets: net zero by 2050. Starting in 2020, 5 yearly goals set for national contributions, commitment to 68% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). To meet goals: set policies to reduce emissions, 10-point plan for green industrial revolution, £12 billion investment into 1/4 million “green jobs”, set carbon budgets. Devolved administrations get their own targets. THC has a good website about climate change.

• Scotland: Climate Change Act of 2019 set goal of net zero by 2045 with interim targets for 2020/30/40. Also sets yearly carbon budgets. Goals for green recovery: green jobs, protect biodiversity, work toward net zero.

There is strong legislation; Scotland must prepare strategic delivery plans.

• THC: takes lead from national policy but can set our own goals, such as

Carbon CLEVER initiative, which aims for carbon neutral Inverness in lowcarbon Highland by 2025.

JP offered to send further details of this.

Carbon management plan sets targets for reducing emissions in every local authority area from schools, waste, etc, everything council does. Going beyond local policies, leading/contributing to projects to make the Highlands more sustainable, collaboration with NatureScot, RSPB, UHI, etc.

5. How are green policies financed?

JP: There are many sources, with more funding becoming available:
• Government funding: still the main source, e.g. Forestry Commission.
• Bids/Awards: example of pathfinder funding such as a trial green
infrastructure project that JP is working on. These trials are used to suggest
new/innovative ways, if they can be scaled then can lead to more funding.
• Carbon Credits: These are “credits” bought by private sector or individuals
to offset carbon emissions, e.g. a company investing in peatland
conservation. These types of credits could benefit the Highlands.
• Charities: donations from organisations like RSPB.

6. With current Covid restrictions & in longer term perhaps a move away from
air travel, Highland is likely to see an increase in tourism. How can roads &
other facilities be upgraded to cope? (and how much should they be?)

JP: THC has limited infrastructure budget, maintenance /repair work stretches
already limited budget. Needs to be more work to encourage and improve public
transport uptake with tourists and residents, to prepare Highlands for electric
vehicle revolution, direct tourists to routes that can cope with traffic more easily,
provide information on fragility of infrastructure. With Covid impact, more people
are working/shopping/studying remotely, THC should continue to support this by
providing better internet connectivity, which ties in with transport infrastructure.

7. Land: How do we balance differing land uses such as peat, forestry, farming,
rewilding, clean energy production?

JP addressed each category:
• Peatlands: Highlands has world-class peatlands, store a lot of carbon, most
effective when in good condition. Flow Country (part of World Heritage Site
Project) stores more carbon than every woodland in Britain combined!
• Forestry: expanding woodlands increases carbon sequestration, having “the
right tree in the right place” is significant to ambitious tree planting targets.
• Rewilding is often associated with reintroducing apex predators like wolf
and lynx, but is actually about simply letting nature take its course, we are a
long way off from reintroducing wolves!
• Renewable energy: this is partial answer to climate change, encourage
consumers to switch to renewable energy from providers. Wind farms are
most visible and often controversial, local communities should be involved
in planning, the benefits are important. Solar and wave energy are growing.
• Agriculture: Covid has revealed food security issues, we need more
incentives to manage land with biodiversity.
• Balance: follow the science, don’t reward land use that exploits the land,
any plans need to keep people at heart!
Q& A with JP After the Presentation:

AW: how can we improve education get young people engaged, take responsibility?
JP:  Need to engage more with schools, prepare students for green jobs, will need
1/4 million passionate graduates to fill them. Green Impact Sustainability tool,
setup by NUS, challenges people to make their organisation more sustainable, this
is a way to engage with schools and can make it easy and fun for kids to get
involved, guide them toward green jobs of the future.

AW: How can we address fuel poverty as priority and look out for most vulnerable
in society?
JP: THC is taking a two-pronged approach: replace inefficient boilers, install proper
insulation. THC provides info about funding for eligibility. Winter Fuel allowance
can help mitigate but it is a much wider issue that needs addressing.

Norman: Charging points for electric vehicles are all different: can we get
manufactures to align and use single power point?
JP: Compared it to different fuel types. Probably decades away but as they become
more popular and the price comes down, there will be more standardisation.

SM: Any thoughts on farming vehicles using petrol/diesel?
JP:  While no new diesel vehicles will be sold in a few years’ time, will be slower to
convert these large machines. But there are people working on this now, it’s a
question of technology and there will be solutions in future.

MT: Recent article about French govt decision to end flights that can be done by
train under 2.5 hrs- What is THC and HIAL saying about airports on Skye, or Wick?
How does this square with green ambitions?
JP: Difficult question, can’t really get anywhere in the Highlands in 2.5 hrs by train.
Benefits to having airports in rural areas, issues of depopulation, aging population.
Development of airports doesn’t align with green recovery but rural, isolated areas
should be priority over large wealthy areas like London, need to look at
communities affected by changes.

JD: How accurate is reporting of CO2 being produced?
JP: Reporting is not incredibly accurate, elements like Scope 3 emissions that we
have no direct control over. We do try to measure consistently, focus on measuring
what we can and focus on what we can improve.

AP: What has been done to educate adults to make behaviour changes? What is
the most effective action that communities can take?
JP:  Work on community projects, consultation or holding events, e.g. Grow Your
Own event, look at examples from around the world that are working well: e.g. the

Netherlands, ideas from community initiatives (buyouts of land for rewilding),organic growing/boxes in villages, circular economies, small projects can have large ripple effect. Incredible Edible charity: project for growing food locally, reducing food miles, started as neighbourhood initiative.

AM: Is THC creating a toolkit of these kinds of things to provide to CCs or
community groups?
JP: Not currently, but this is a good idea he will take back.  There is also eco-officer
network, volunteer to work on public facing event/project every month to host in
local area, could be very useful and have wider reach with online events. “Local
nature conservation sites”- we are the only ones who don’t have one in Highlands,
there is a need to do more of this.

BW:  Re: smart local energy grid: shared ownership option brings more money,
could THC get involved and use money to address fuel poverty for example, or
further address climate change?
JP: THC leader Margaret Davidson is very interested in paving the way for
community benefit from windfarms, putting direct profits toward climate action,
habitat regeneration in areas of windfarm.

AW:  Climate emergency can be overwhelming, how to stay positive?
JP: Everyone has to make their own decisions, find their own passion and inspire
others. Raising awareness and repeating message of climate emergency is
important; THC Climate Change team is growing from 2 to 6. Optimism can be hard
but so much work ongoing, next generation is much more fired up and will only get
better in terms of work being done.

BW closed the meeting thanking JP for sharing insights, look forward to hearing
updates. JP reiterated offer to send on more information if requested.

Date of next meeting: May 10th 2021

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.