Council’s climate crisis attitude like ‘Groundhog Day’, says activist group

Pupils were joined by a crowd of all ages to support their climate change strike on Friday. Picture: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image. NO F12 FW CLIMATE CHANGE DAY OF ACTION 04

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Eighteen months after acknowledging the global climate and ecological emergency, The Highland Council (THC) this week stands accused of doing little more than just talking about it with an attitude akin to Groundhog Day, the hit movie in which the lead character relives the same day over and over.

Members of the council’s Corporate Resources Committee last week agreed ‘Carbon Budgeting’ recommendations arising from the Economy and Infrastructure Committee should be considered by the local authority.

Malcolm MacLeod, Executive Chief Officer Infrastructure and Environment, said that 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 its operations.

‘Once that target date has been agreed by members, and to share responsibility for climate action corporately, it is proposed 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,’ he said.

Council Climate Change Officer Keith Masson added: ‘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.

‘It requires joined-up thinking, a recognition 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.’

But the Fort William branch of climate crisis activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR), was less than impressed.

A spokesperson told the Lochaber Times: ‘This is beginning to seem like Groundhog Day. Eighteen months after acknowledging the global climate and ecological emergency, Highland Council is still just talking, and still talking, only about putting its own house in order.

‘All the while, as the need for urgent action accelerates exponentially, it continues to permit new developments on peatland, on riverbanks and coastal flood plains.

‘Where are the planning and land use policies that take the emergency seriously? Where is the public information about what this all means for the Highlands and what we can do, collectively, about it?

‘Where is the investment in public transport, car clubs, maintenance of existing  electric vehicle infrastructure and community energy projects? Highland Council is our local government. If ever there has been a time for effective governance, it is now.

‘Memo to Highland Council: online climate change conferences with self-selected attendees, amounting to less than 0.1 percent of the Highland population, aren’t enough, nor is this just about what we can choose to do as individuals.’



School pupils in Lochaber have been joined by residents of all ages to support climate change protests. Picture: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image.