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Climate / Challenges ahead on the path to sustainable travel

Climate Action Shetland hopes for climate conversations across the isles

The council currently uses its own resources for nearly half the cost of running the inter-island ferry service.Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND is facing “significant issues” in developing strategies to decarbonise its internal and external transport links, according to the local authority’s chairman of its environment and transport committee.

Councillor Ryan Thomson was reacting to an investigation by Shetland News last week which revealed the high carbon cost of travelling between the isles and the Scottish mainland.

Meanwhile, campaign group Shetland Climate Action is calling for a Shetland-wide conversation about low carbon lifestyle and the impact of individual choice.

Inter-island travel is equally carbon intensive with the internal ferry network amounting to around half of the council’s own carbon footprint.

North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson. Photo: Shetland NewsChair of the SIC’s transport and environment committee, councillor Ryan Thomson. Photo: Shetland News

Thomson said: ”These findings highlight the significant issues we face both as a local authority and a transport partnership in focusing on the climate agenda and developing a path to more sustainable travel options both within Shetland and to/from Shetland as well as improving the performance of our existing transport services and infrastructure.

“A collaborative approach between local and national government, and the companies and organisations which serve Shetland is essential if we are to achieve the national net zero targets.”

The SIC has just published a short paper titled Key Carbon Reduction Actions which lists a number of decarbonising targets including renewing all internal ferries with zero-carbon vessels, or becoming zero-carbon capable within 10 years, and /or replacing internal ferry routes with fixed links.

The ageing internal ferry fleet is responsible for half the council’s carbon footprint, which sits at an estimated 22,000 tonnes in total in 2020/21.

Highlands and Islands top Green candidate John Finnie: 'we want social justice too' - Photo: Chris Cope/ShetNewsScottish Greens MSP for the Highlands and Islands John Finnie. Photo: Shetland News

Green Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie called on the Scottish Government to put its money where its mouth is and invest in carbon reducing technologies.

Finnie said: “As a maritime nation, with a skilled shipbuilding workforce, there is a tremendous opportunity to ensure a pipeline of a modern, efficient fleet.

“I call on the cabinet secretary to reinvigorate the ferry replacement plan, which should including the Shetland and Orkney internal ferries, thereby improving connectivity, reducing the impact on our environment and creating and retaining valuable jobs.”

His call was echoed by Orkney MSP Liam McArthur who again highlighted the urgent need for procurement of replacement vessels for Orkney’s internal ferry services.

On Wednesday, islands minister Paul Wheelhouse said the government’s immediate focus was on developing the vessel replacement and deployment plan in the Clyde and Hebrides and supporting the workforce at Inverclyde.

Responding to the Shetland News investigation, a spokeswoman for Shetland Climate Action said individuals were equally responsible for adapting to a low carbon lifestyle.

Isa Kristiansen-Bragg said: “There’s been much talk about the role of local and national government in reducing their contribution to the climate crisis but we, as individuals, also hold power – around 40 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the choices we make as individuals.

“Adopting a low carbon lifestyle is only possible when an individual can access simple information to compare the environmental impact of whatever is on the table.

“Every choice a consumer makes will have an impact on our planet. The more information available, the more informed choices we can make.

“We welcome this new debate on the environmental impact of reaching the mainland and hope this sparks conversations across Shetland.”