Highland Council Climate Change

Figuring out whether it’s worthwhile doing anything individually to help with the climate crisis can be very confusing. What’s the point of us doing anything when the big companies and big countries are going against the tide? Surely the government should do something!!

(You know we at Planet Sutherland believe wholeheartedly that all of our individual and group actions will build up and the cumulative effect will help, not only with the climate crisis, but also building our communities and improving our health and wellbeing).

Anyway,  the good news is that Highland Council did declare a climate emergency and they have a Climate Change Working Group. Go to their web site to see read more about the groups purpose and the work they’ve done. They had to start out principally looking at improving the Highland Council’s “estate” – the property and departments of the Highland Council. However, they also have a remit to reduce emissions in the Highland area and champion climate change awareness and actions with all the partner organisations that they work for, and also with the wider Highland community.

And great news for 2021!! Several new staff have been and are being recruited to work on the Highland Adapts projects, to increase community engagement and even to look at hydrogen opportunities.

They have had many meetings since Oct 2019 (the initial summary discussions below) and Agendas, Minutes and Reports for all the meetings can be read in full here. Reading just some of these documents will help with our understanding of the scale of work just within the Highland Council Estate itself. I’ve included a summary of the minutes here:

October 2019 – Included are discussions on building energy efficiency and changes to help; school buildings; vehicle use; increasing electric charge points for vehicles; a schools competition to increase the visibility of council electric vehicles and charge points; green energy production; promoting climate change action ideas within council offices; issues with new building regulations for rural buildings; and forestry and community land strategies.

(We are potentially interested in land availability to enable our own local growing projects).

Nov 2019 – There is a Highlands Adapts Initiative which arose through collaboration with the Highland Council and Adaptation Scotland. It seems to work with the Community Planning Partnerships to promote collaborative working to address the climate change action needs, particularly in the more rural areas. And it was proposed that the Highlands be used as a model for discussion at COP26. Various funding and staffing actions were put forward, including hosting a Climate Change Seminar in Spring 2020.

Jan 2020 – (Minutes missing)

Feb 2020 – The first main topic here was a presentation of a Food Growing Strategy for the Highlands by Emma Whitham. (We provided input to this presentation at a meeting held in Feb where we discussed our thoughts on the obstacles of growing food here). It seems everyone is in agreement that we need an improved food growing strategy, given that we currently export and import 75% of our food! The Community Planning Partnerships don’t seem the best means of rolling this out due to resource constraints. Instead it was considered that some dedicated local individuals launch and maintain the projects with the support of the network and Third Sector. It is considered that many initiatives are going on, but individual areas are not aware of the work of others. (We are trying to help improve this situation with our Planet Sutherlandcollaborative Eco Directory.) Promoting the concept and information to schools is also seen as beneficial.

There was also discussion on

  • the copious supply of Highlands renewable energy and the difficulties of distributing elsewhere. 
  • progress on electric vehicle charging points
  • the issues with removing single use plastics in schools with respect to hygiene and difficulties with behaviour change
  • carbon offsetting and reducing emissions

This group is also providing input for COP26. Discussion here included: restrictions on natural woodland regeneration; that there are many community groups working on climate change that the council are not aware of; removing barriers regarding access to land to support local climate actions; improving knowledge of what climate change actions are happening with in the council with local groups and vice versa, noting resource issues.

Please read the rest of the minutes directly here.

2020 also saw HC Climate Conference, details below and the completion of the Highland Council Growing Our Future Report.

2021: In this new year, we are looking forward to significantly increased resource in the HC groups with new project officers focussing on community engagement. These include: Highlands Adapts and Growing Our Future.

Highland Council, Climate Change Working Group, Conference Nov 2020

This amazing event with countless speakers covered a huge variety of topics – all too much to take in at the time. The recorded event is over 4 hours long. 
You can read about the speakers and watch the recording here – HC CCWG Conference 2020.  It will be helpful, if you download the Agenda here too, which now contains details of the timings of each of the talks, so you can fast forward to the talks you want to hear –  HC CCWG Agenda.