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Highland Council says it is working hard in response to the climate emergency with 'much more to come' in 2022 - vowing that Highland residents will be supported to 'accelerate action'

By Louise Glen

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Councillor Trish Robertson.
Councillor Trish Robertson.

Highland Council’s climate change and energy team have had a productive year and say its crucial work will continue apace in the New Year.

As 2021 draws to a close, the team has taken time to reflect on the progress made in 2021 in the Highland region.

It has been two years now since The Highland Council announced a climate and ecological emergency in recognition of the urgent need to reduce emissions and protect the ecosystems.

In 2021, the threat of climate change has made itself more apparent than ever before through intense heatwaves, flooding and wildfires.

The team has been working to develop and deliver on a number of key projects to ensure as a region, and a council, it can mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Throughout 2021 The Flow Country has been the site of two important projects, both of which could help to raise the profile of this remarkable peatland and bring benefits to local communities and the Highlands at large.

A dedicated team, led by Highland Council project manager Steven Andrews, is working hard to secure world heritage site status for The Flow Country. If successful, this will be the first peatland world heritage site anywhere in the world.

Additionally, The Flow Country is part of the Landscapes as Carbon Sinks project which is an EIT Climate-KIC Deep Demonstration project which connects pioneering land-based, bioeconomy and investment organisations with policy makers and citizens to deliver positive change in Scotland’s land sector.

Chair of the Highland Council’s Climate Change Working Group, Cllr Trish Robertson, said: “We should be rightly proud of the achievements of our Climate Change and Energy Team in 2021 and look forward with renewed hope to the future.

“We do, however, have a long way to go and with this team’s energy and drive I am sure we will continue to make huge strides towards our ambitious net zero goal.”

There have been exciting developments in renewable energy, the Council’s Salix Recycling Fund, the largest recycling fund in operation in Scotland, has helped deploy solar PV across 29 sites in Highland. It has also partially funded the River Ness Hydro, a 93kw hydroelectric scheme which is under construction and when opened in spring 2022 will produce ~550,000 kWh of renewable electricity annually and will host a unique visitor experience further strengthening the river as an attraction. Moreover, the importance of Highland in the development of green hydrogen has been recognised.

The Highland Adapts initiative, led by principal project manager Emma Whitham, is developing a region-based, partnership approach to climate change adaptation to ensure our communities are resilient to the effects of climate change.

In October, the Climate Change Coordinators hosted the Highland Climate Change Conference which brought people together from across and beyond Highland to discuss the climate and ecological emergency.

The two-day conference and its associated workshops explored topics relating to energy, land and sea, net zero, and resilient communities. The team also attended and gained valuable learning from the COP26 Conference in Glasgow in November.

Cllr Robertson added: “It is important to say that we, as a council and as a region, are moving in the right direction and the team is looking forward to working more closely with partners, communities, and Highland residents to accelerate action to ensure the region meets its climate change and ecological targets.”

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