Dear Fifers

Today is day 5 of climate week and what an interesting week it has been.  I’ve learnt a lot and seen first-hand some of the amazing Fife Council carbon reduction projects, which mitigate against the Climate change, including:

·     the Hydrogen Office at Methil, which is leading the way in alternate fuels for transport and heating;

·     the waste resource centres at Ladybank and Dunfermline, which effect reuse, recycling and renewable energy, including biomass, solar and wind energy and

·     the Anaerobic digestion plant, which processes our food and garden waste and produces not only compost but low carbon heating through the  Dunfermline district heating system for the leisure centre and homes in Dunfermline. It also produces 4,500,000 kWh of low carbon electricity that’s fed into the national grid.

Fife Council is usually ahead of the curve and, supported by its staff, continues to take courageous decisions to be among the first to adopt new technologies and prove, not only that they work, but that they bring both environmental and financial benefits for Fifers.

As Chris Stark, Director of Energy and Climate Change at Scottish Government reminded us this week: ‘Reduction of carbon emissions is not something that would be good to do. It’s the law!  It’s something we have to do’. The new climate policy is in draft just now and is looking to be finalised in 2018. Reduction targets for emissions may be increased from 80 – 90% for 2050.   We, as councillors, need to ensure that the Council addresses not only its own emissions within our buildings and operations but also that the Council has an influence on Fife’s emissions overall.

As was said in yesterday’s workshop, the Council must work more with communities, through community councils and other local groups, and empower local people to take the steps that are fundamental to mitigating climate change.  As a first step, we have a responsibility to ensure that Fifers are aware of the challenges that climate change will bring and the changes in culture and attitude that are required in order to combat it.  I firmly believe that those changes will be all the more easily achieved if the Council and the community are working together.

Indeed, it is the case that the challenges that lie ahead cannot be met by the Council alone.  Local communities must be part of the decision making process about what will be done to reduce carbon emissions through mitigation and building in adaption measures for resilience.  If that is so, then the consequential empowerment and ownership will go a long way towards making these projects more sustainable, more achievable and more affordable.  It is essential that the challenges are addressed, inter-alia, in the Local Outcome Improvement Plan.

A recent Fife Council research project, a first from a council in Scotland, is the Energy Master Plan for Burntisland, which was funded by Transport Scotland and Local Energy Scotland. It was a 5 month long project, which focussed on finding out how Fife Council could best work with a local community around decisions on low carbon electricity, heat, energy efficiency and sustainable transport.  And yes, the project proved it was possible to meet the 2017 Government targets of 80% carbon reduction for a town as well as costing all of the measures required to do so.

The project involved some of the top data and energy consultants in the country and produced a 200 page report. The lessons learnt, next steps needed and the questions it opens up in terms of planning and funding make this a valuable working document, which can be replicated for other communities in Fife.   It helps unpack complexities around whole communities achieving 80% reductions targets and creates a reality in terms of cost. Today, sees the launch of the simplified EMP brochure, which I commend to you.

When the Burntisland Energy Master Plan was presented at a community event in Aberlady, the village was so inspired, it formed a community group that very day to deliver loft insulation to every house in the village. I hope that the Brochure will whet appetites and inspire everyone to what is possible.  Although the challenge is immense, working together, regardless of who we are, where we live or what affiliations or beliefs that we may have, we have a great opportunity to bring about change and prosperity by building a low carbon economy.

Climate week, through its activities and conversations, has been a great catalyst for thought and a focus for action.   I intend to take every opportunity to ‘spread the word’.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the expertise and industry of the Council’s Climate Change Team, which has made Climate Change Week such a success.

It’s been great to chat these last few days.

Till next time

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