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Climate / Transport and oil and gas industry behind high carbon footprint, says councillor

The council ferry Linga. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND has the fourth highest level of CO2 emissions per person in Scotland, according to new figures – but there is little surprise locally over the isles’ ranking.

Figures published recently by the Herald showed that Shetland produced 10.2 tonnes of net CO2 per capita in 2017, which was more than double the Scottish average.

Only Falkirk (14.9 tonnes), East Lothian (11.1 tonnes) and Clackmannanshire (10.3 tonnes) ranked higher.

Orkney was placed at sixth place, joint with the Western Isles, with 8.7 tonnes.

Shetland’s high ranking in net carbon output is explained by emissions from large facilities like the Shetland Gas Plant and Sullom Voe Terminal and its power station in addition to its dependence on transport.

Shetland also relies on fuel-guzzling ferries for transport to and from its islands, while heating bills are also high compared to other parts of the country.

Chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee Ryan Thomson said it was unfair to compare island communities to areas in the Scottish mainland when it came to emissions per person.

“It’s a very lazy argument to compare the carbon footprint of someone living in a very remote location such as Shetland, to someone living in the middle of Glasgow,” he said.

“Shetland’s high figure can be attributed to a combination of reasons.

“Our remoteness is a large factor. We rely on ferries and planes to get on and off our islands both internally and externally, and all our goods need to come in by freight services. Our islands are also very spread out which means for many they rely on a vehicle. On top of this we have the oil and gas sectors.”

Thomson said the council has reduced its carbon footprint from 27,000 tCo2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) to 25,800 tCo2e in 2018/19, “which is the equivalent of taking 232 cars off the road”.

“We can do more, however, and we strive to do more wherever we can,” he added.

“Work is ongoing to understand what changes we can further make and implement to reduce our carbon footprint further, something we are always looking at reducing.

“We are also replacing all 4,000 streetlights in Shetland eventually – currently we have replaced 800 – to much more energy efficient LEDs.”