Extinction Rebellion Highlands & Islands and Moray Action supporters gathered at the Highland Council offices on 22nd September – the day the Council’s new Climate Change committee was formally created – to press councillors to deliver on their commitments on climate change. In May 2019, the Council had declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency, and set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025. The climate activists pointed out that Highland Region has so much green potential, but it is not being realised and policies undermining the declaration of a Climate Emergency have been approved. They cited peat extraction licenses/permissions, slow progress in Council pension fund divestment from fossil fuels and arms dealers, and poor provision of electric vehicle charging in the Highlands.
Councillor Karl Rosie (SNP, Thurso and Northwest Caithness), the chair of Highland Council’s Climate Change Committee, and Councillor Kate Willis (Green party, Fort William and Ardnamurchan), the vice chair, met with the climate activists to address the issues they raised. Councillor Rosie stated “I am very pleased that the council has reinforced its commitment to climate change by raising the profile of the previous Climate Change Working Group to a formally constituted committee. I can also provide assurance that no decisions have been made about reducing the council’s commitments to net zero. Quite the opposite.”
He cited the Council’s six-figure investments in active travel infrastructure over the next 10 years and the development of a new sustainable transport strategy for the region. Five additional posts are being recruited to the council’s climate and energy team to drive forward the net zero strategy and two new ecological posts will strengthen actions across the region, including carbon sequestration. He acknowledged the need to improve the EV charging network across the region.
Councillor Willis said: “We had a really good discussion with the representatives of the group about green energy opportunities and the unparalleled prospects offered by Highland’s abundant natural resources. Like them, we are very ambitious about maximising this potential for the benefit of Highland communities, particularly in the context of the current fuel crisis. The case for moving away from fossil fuels has never been greater.”
For more details of the Council’s response see this report in the Strathspey & Badenoch Herald.