Climate Change and Energy
There is a global climate emergency. The Scottish Government is leading the world in responding to this challenge. The recent Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 sets a target for net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045, five years ahead of the rest of the UK. This matches the independent UK Committee on Climate Change’s advice on the “highest possible” ambition – as called for under the Paris Agreement. Our interim target for 2030 of a 75 per cent reduction goes far beyond what the 2018 IPCC Special Report says is needed globally over the next decade to prevent warming of more than 1.5 °C. The Scottish Government is currently updating its Climate Change Plan to reflect the increased ambition of the new targets and this is due to be published by the end of April 2020.
Whilst reducing emissions is essential, we must also prepare for the climate changes which are already locked in. We are already seeing warming in Scotland, with more extreme weather events and rising sea levels. As a nation, we must adapt to these changes. Against this background, and in order to be truly sustainable, the implementation of the Plan will build on, and align with, where possible, Scotland’s wider climate change commitments, polices and strategies, as well as with existing energy related schemes.
In September this year, the Scottish Government published the Second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, detailing how Scotland can become a climate-ready and resilient nation in this climate emergency. This Plan incorporates a number of proposals that will work to increase the resilience of island communities to climate change. For example, detailing policies and collaborations that will support the adaptation of Scotland’s aquaculture and fishing industry; working with a range of stakeholders to develop an action plan to improve resilience to properties at flood risk; and looking for ways to support and strengthen recycling and food waste services in island communities. From an energy perspective, the implementation of the Plan will consider funding schemes such as the Energy Investment Fund, the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fun and engage, where possible, with the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme.
To reflect the role that community action can play on the journey to net-zero emissions, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform announced in November our intention to establish a network of regional Community Climate Action Hubs, including one specifically for our islands. The islands hub, for which the procurement process will start this winter, will facilitate better networking between community groups and enable a joined-up approach to community climate action that reflects the shared circumstances, challenges and opportunities in island communities.
We are determined that this Plan will work alongside efforts in both climate change adaptation and mitigation, to create resilient and climate ready island communities and to ensure those communities play a full part in Scotland’s journey to net-zero emissions within one generation. When we are designing our Implementation Route Map, we will take great care to ensure that all of our actions in relation to the Islands Plan, across all of its Strategic Objectives, are in line with the Scottish Government’s wider climate change commitments.
We will work closely with key stakeholders to ensure that the voices of islanders are fully heard, including as part of the Scottish Government’s activities in the run up to and at the international climate negotiations in Glasgow in 2020; achieving a just transition to net-zero, and that islands benefit from the many opportunities associated with a green and sustainable economy.
The Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Forestry Strategy (2019-2029) sets out a 50 year vision to have more trees and woods across Scotland. The strategy provides a 10-year framework for action to support the delivery of a number of Government priorities including addressing the global climate emergency, growing our rural economy and enhancing biodiversity. To help realise this vision the Government will publish a more detailed implementation plan by 1 April 2020.
Forests and woodlands are important and valued assets on the islands. They include a range of different woodland types, such as remaining fragments of native forests, community and croft woodlands and larger productive woodlands. The Scottish Government will work with communities, crofters, farmers, land owners and the forestry sector to increase the range of economic, social and environmental benefits that island communities derive from forests and woodlands, including by ensuring they are sustainably managed and in appropriate ways and places.
We heard many times during the consultation that islanders are best placed to help us direct our work around Climate Change and so we will work closely with them to ensure that their voices are fully heard, achieving a just transition to net-zero, and that islands benefit from the many opportunities associated with a green and sustainable economy.
Small low-lying islands are under threat from climate change and predicted sea-level rise. Climate change is expected to increase instances of flooding and coastal erosion, whilst simultaneously negatively affecting water supply, food production, health, tourism, and accelerating habitat depletion. Additionally, the majority of island economies are highly dependent on outside sources for food, fuel, and even employment, which together increase the economic fragility of many islands. Respondents to the consultation frequently mentioned the need for action on climate change.
However, there are opportunities for island communities to lead the way in showing how to realise our climate change ambitions. For example, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) is a world-leading centre based on Orkney for testing wave and tidal energy devices. This shows how islands are at the forefront of emerging technologies. The introduction of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, whether it be increased revenue for island communities through renewable energy projects, or the protection, recovery, restoration or enhancement of natural carbon stores (on land or in the sea), or the introduction of (preferably nature-based) solutions to combat coastal erosion, can have a direct, positive effect on the local economy and environment. Subsequently, if the low carbon energy potential of islands was fully realised and avenues were developed to allow for reinvestment in the community, directed by the community to ensure inclusiveness, the effect on the island economy, facilities and general wellbeing could be transformational.
There are, and will continue to be in future, strong cases to upgrade existing island connections to the mainland or to build new ones so that the electricity generated on the islands can help meet wider Scottish and UK demand, and to allow for profits associated with the generation to be reinvested appropriately on the islands. The Plan presents an opportunity to support continued debate with relevant UK and Scotland-based partners and stakeholders on how islands throughout Scotland can become hubs of energy innovation and climate change leaders, as is already happening on some islands within Scotland and across Europe.
Surf ‘n’ Turf, Orkney – Community Energy Scotland converts surplus electricity from Orkney’s tidal and onshore wind sources into hydrogen. The hydrogen is stored and transported by road and sea to be used in Orkney when it is needed. Surf ‘n’ Turf is funded by the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund (LECF), which is part of the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) delivered by Local Energy Scotland.
The project is a good example of how early support for hydrogen initiatives has acted as a catalyst for Orkney to attract and build on their impressive energy project portfolio of activity and innovation.
While renewable energy is promoted and supported, Scotland as a whole and many of the islands therein, is still a key player in the oil and gas energy sector. There are still plenty of opportunities in this sector that islands and island communities should harness. But, in light of Scotland’s wider commitments to tackle climate change, low carbon energy systems such as solar, wind, ground source and air source energy systems should be encouraged. Oil and gas operations need to be made as energy efficient as possible, and aspects of the industry such as decommissioning need to be fostered to secure a just and smooth transition to renewable sources of energy. There was recognition in our consultation of the local benefit being delivered by community renewable schemes, for example on Tiree, Eigg, Gigha and Lewis as well as the community funds arising from private renewable schemes.
Map showing renewables assets on Scotland’s islands
Against this background, and in order to be truly sustainable, the Plan will build on, and align with, Scotland’s wider climate change commitments, policies and strategies, as well as with existing energy related schemes. For example, islands will play their part in the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, will fully take into account the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, and will learn lessons from the operation of the Climate Challenge Fund. From an energy perspective, the implementation of the Plan will carefully consider funding schemes such as the Energy Investment Fund, the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund and engage, where possible, with the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme (LCITP).
Strategic Objective 9
To contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation and promote clean, affordable and secure energy we will:
- Work with island communities to support their climate change aspirations.
- Work with island communities to look at alternative solutions to managing waste, particularly in respect of Scotland’s Circular Economy Strategy.
- Work with local authorities to help them work towards their statutory targets.
- Work towards creating net zero emission islands and providing global climate change leadership.
- Put in place resilient adaptation plans on islands that are at greater risk from climate change linking these strongly with development plans for those islands.
- Work closely with island partners, the network owner and all other key stakeholders to deliver existing proposals for electricity transmission links to mainland Scotland.
- Work with Resilience Partnerships and energy providers to encourage them to focus on the resilience of islands’ energy supply networks.
- Work with transport-related stakeholders to have the most energy-efficient and climate-friendly transport services possible across the islands.
- Continue working to unleash the potential of renewable energy as both a way to mitigate climate change and as a driver of sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
- Work with communities, crofters, farmers and landowners to expand forests and woodlands on the islands, recognising wider land-use objectives.
- Put the themes of meeting emissions targets and adapting to the effects of climate change at the heart of the preparation of National Planning Framework 4.
- Support the adaptation of Scotland’s aquaculture and fishing industry.
- Work with a range of stakeholders to develop an action plan to improve resilience to properties at flood risk.
- Work with local authorities to strengthen recycling and food waste services in island communities.
- Work closely with key stakeholders to ensure that the voices of islanders are fully heard, achieving a just transition to net-zero, and that islands benefit from the many opportunities associated with a green and sustainable economy.