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OPINION: In the wake of COP26, Highland councillor Trish Robertson says it is no longer enough to note what needs to be done to tackle climate change

By Contributor

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Councillor Trish Robertson aboard a hydrogen-powered bus which visited Inverness College UHI.
Councillor Trish Robertson aboard a hydrogen-powered bus which visited Inverness College UHI.

COP26 has ended with the headline agreements of deforestation ending in nine years and the phasing down of coal use – commendable this is now part of the agreement, but we know action was needed on this decades ago.

With global temperatures already at 1.2C above pre-industrial levels and the world headed for 2.4C action has been called for by demonstrators, but the challenge has gone unanswered. Words are not enough, we needed an action plan to come out of this conference!

It is no longer sufficient to note what needs to be addressed. It is past time to see what action is agreed to end deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels.

Planting trees and funding carbon sequestration is only a temporary resolution. World leaders have not heard the voice of the people.

If action is to be taken quickly it will be the simple measures individuals can adopt to make changes in daily life. I could suggest reducing car journeys as a start.

If the distance to travel is less than two miles and you chose to walk you will have gone part of the way to the 10,000 steps recommended for daily exercise!

The event was an opportunity to learn about what others were doing to adapt and mitigate contribution to climate change and the exhibitors were enthusiastic on the actions their companies had planned, though on questioning it became clear these ambitious plans were currently just ideas.

Better news came from the projects on transport and heavy vehicle replacements. Progress has been good and some of these changes will be ready for general use by 2026.

The affordability factor still needs addressed and concern over battery manufacture and materials remain.

The new cars need simplified to reduce the price to one that is within the reach of everyone. News about design rather than adaption for disabled a refreshing way to consider new models. Hydrogen infrastructure will require rapid deployment and autonomous vehicles will have an acceptance hurdle to climb, which are all very interesting considerations.

Transport is a big cause of pollution and an area where rapid change is needed. Alternative fuels are being produced and each has its place. Electric planes on shorter flights could be a reality by 2024!

Electric and hydrogen buses and trains are already in use or on trial and green sources of manufacture are an exciting new industry to replace oil and gas. We need subsidised fares to encourage everyone to change how they travel from individual car use to a more sustainable method.

Support for subsidy will be hard to understand outside Highland.

A peak fare return on the train for a journey of around 20 minutes comes in at £4.20 in Glasgow. Here in Highland a single fare on the bus for a similar journey is £5 while a return is £9.

I learned a lot during my five days at the event.

Halting population growth is key to climate challenge

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