Dear Orkney News,
I am writing to follow up the excellent letter by Rikki Lidderdale (Orcadian 10.10.2019), and the reported comments and attitude to the Climate Emergency of some OIC Councillors.
Duncan Tullock rightly listed various local social emergencies which need addressing. Where we part company is his either/or approach. The ongoing social issues in Orkney must be tackled at the same time as tackling the Climate Emergency. I would go as far as saying that if we do not seriously address the climate problem, social issues caused by it will dwarf anything we currently worry about.
Here is an example of something climate related that we need to get on with sorting here and now. The handsome new flood defences along the Kirkwall sea front will hopefully work to defend the city against a storm surge.
But it will not stop flooding being delivered from the clouds, and we will almost certainly suffer in the future an extreme weather event which combines a storm surge and torrential rain. In order to prevent the repeat of flood damage in Kirkwall which we have seen in the past decade, we need to manage how rain water moves within Kirkwall, and how we deliver it to the sea. We should also realise that as mainland UK cities start to suffer repeated flood damage, with the huge costs which will come with it, the ability and willingness to assist Orkney, which politicians Sooth erroneously consider remote, may not be forthcoming.
At the local, Scottish and UK level I hear the constant refrain that we are a tiny part of the carbon emissions problem, and whatever we do will not make a difference. Or that we have massively cut our emissions since 1990, and other countries need to get on and shoulder more of the burden. Well lets be honest, much of our carbon emission reduction has been achieved by closing factories in the UK and replacing their production with goods manufactured elsewhere, and then shipping them here by ship or plane. We also fly around on the cheap as chips airlines in a way that would have seemed extraordinary not so long ago. So lets get real and admit that we have one hell of a lot that we can and must do here in Orkney, Scotland and the wider UK to address our Carbon Debt.
On a more positive note, let us consider the opportunities of grasping the Climate Emergency Thistle. Orkney already has a justifiable global reputation for innovation in renewable energy and the applications thereof. Just stop and think on that for a moment.
Orkney a small archipelago off the north coast of Scotland is globally renowned for what is occurring here. That is a reputation that any major city would be desperate to have.
At a recent OREF meeting, I was talking to a young Woman who has travelled from Nigeria to study renewable energy in Stromness. The fact that young people are travelling from across the World to study in Orkney, is surely testament to what has already been achieved by our local professionals and academics, often in spite of the short sightedness of national politicians and industry, and the financial benefits our community is accruing from our status.
OIC deserves praise for the support it has and is giving to innovation in renewables in Orkney, and being a trend setter in having a Hydrogen Officer at the Council is something we should all be proud of. If we look upon the Climate Emergency as much as a massive opportunity for Orkney as much as it is a massive problem, then grasping the Thistle will prove of great benefit to our whole community.
The points raised above bring me to the Sustainable Orkney Conference that OREF are putting together to run from the 20th to 22nd of March 2020. The plan is for Orkney to come together as a community, to discover what we are already doing with regards to the Climate Emergency, and shape a plan to remove as much Carbon as we can from our local economy, and at the same time enhance the lives of all who live here.
Yours, Jon Southerington (OREF Board member), Orkney