Hoy: Carbon Neutral by 2040?

Ward Hill from Rackwick Hoy, Photo Martin Laird

Hoy has been named as one of six islands which will be supported by the Scottish Government to be carbon neutral in 18 years time.

Working with local authorities and representatives from the islands, the other 5 to be carbon neutral are: Islay, Great Cumbrae, Raasay, Barra and Yell.

That the Parliament welcomes the Scottish Government’s announcement of the six islands that will be supported towards becoming fully carbon neutral by 2040; notes that the six islands are Hoy, Islay, Great Cumbrae, Raasay, Barra and Yell; recognises that these six islands will embrace the opportunity for island communities to lead the way in realising Scotland’s climate change ambitions; notes that the project will benefit all Scottish islands, and not only those supported directly as part of the project, through knowledge exchange and good practices; welcomes this initiative, which puts Scotland’s islands at the forefront of climate change policy while celebrating their unique culture and heritage, and acknowledges that the six carbon neutral islands will become international trailblazers and champions of carbon neutrality across the world.

Scottish Government Debate: Supporting Scotland’s Islands on Their Journey to Become Carbon Neutral

Rural Affairs and Islands Secretary, in the Scottish Government Mairi Gougeon said:

“Scotland is at the forefront of climate change mitigation and adaptation at the global level, and I’ve always believed that our islands will contribute significantly to the country’s net zero commitment.

“I was pleased to announce at COP26 that we are taking this ambition further than the original commitment, now aiming to support six islands in their journey towards carbon neutrality by 2040.

“This project is another testament to Scottish islands being in the vanguard of innovation, leading the way in the journey to net zero while supporting other areas across Scotland.”

What does carbon neutral mean? ( Source: Plan A Academy)

  • Carbon neutral means that any CO2 released into the atmosphere from a company’s activities is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed.
  • Climate positive means that activity goes beyond achieving net-zero carbon emissions to create an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Carbon negative means the same thing as “climate positive.”
  • Carbon positive is how organisations describe climate positive and carbon negative. It’s mainly a marketing term, and understandably confusing–we generally avoid it.
  • Climate Neutral refers to reducing all GHG to the point of zero while eliminating all other negative environmental impacts that an organisation may cause.
  • Net-Zero carbon emissions mean that an activity releases net-zero carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
  • Net-Zero emissions balance the whole amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) released and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

The selection of Hoy and the other islands was announced during a debate in the Scottish Parliament. An amendment had been put forward by Orkney Constituency MSP, Liam McArthur, LibDem which would have seen the inclusion of interisland replacement ferries.

 insert at end “; regrets that, although Hoy and Yell will be supported towards becoming fully carbon neutral islands, inter-island ferries in Orkney and Shetland have been excluded from the new Islands Connectivity Plan, and calls on the Scottish Government to rectify this so that any targets around carbon neutral ferries include those serving all of Scotland’s islands; recognises that reducing emissions from heat will be particularly challenging and costly in island communities with the highest levels of fuel poverty, and believes that the Scottish Government must therefore prioritise support through a targeted plan to help retrofit homes on Scotland’s islands as part of wider efforts to meet Scottish Government targets.”

This amendment was defeated: For: Labour 20;Tories 28; LibDem 4. Against: SNP 58; Greens 7

Hoy Head Ferry

Commenting afterwards Liam McArthur said:

“Islanders and island communities are already leading the way when it comes to decarbonisation and tackling the threats of climate change.  Indeed, Orkney has developed a reputation for world-leading innovation over the years, from the development of renewable energy to the use of that energy in areas such as transport and heat.

“While it is welcome that the government plans to support six islands to become carbon neutral by 2040, this cannot be the sum of its ambition.  This must be a process that includes and supports all islands.  Key to that, of course, will be reducing emissions from transport and heat.  In that context, the exclusion of Orkney and Shetland’s internal ferry services from the government’s Connectivity Plan makes absolutely no sense at all.

“Any ambition to create carbon neutral islands cannot ignore the urgent need to deliver low-emission ferries. That can only be achieved with government support.  So too when it comes to reducing emissions from heat. Island communities, such as Orkney, suffer the highest levels of fuel poverty in the country and measures to combat this are more challenging and costly to deliver.

“That is why we need a targeted plan of support that prioritises resources where the need is greatest.  On both these issues, it is hard to understand why SNP and Green MSPs felt unable to offer their support.  Tackling fuel poverty and delivering low-emission ferries offers a double benefit not just for the environment, but the sustainability of our island communities.”

Image credit Bell

The Scottish Parliament’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee is looking at the role of local government and its partners in addressing the climate emergency. It will be visiting Orkney on 6th of June. The MSPs will be looking at how the private sector, third sector, social enterprises and local communities are working with local government to meet net zero targets.

Committee Convener, Dean Lockhart MSP, said: 

“So many of the key areas in helping Scotland reach its net zero targets sit with local government. Issues such as travel, housing, recycling and the circular economy have a huge impact on Scotland’s environment. 

“But we know that local government can’t make this change alone. That is why we want to see how councils across Scotland are working with their communities and building relationships with business and the voluntary sector to embed these changes and make a difference to climate change. 

 “Our visits will allow us to see first-hand the positive work happening across this country as well as finding out what more needs to be done to make the net zero targets a reality.” 

Orkney Islands Council has planning for a Community Wind Farm on Hoy. The plans were approved by the Scottish Government last year for the six-turbine Council owned wind farm at Wee Fea in Hoy. The Hoy development is part of Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project.

Old Man of Hoy silhouette photo: Martin Laird

Fiona Grahame