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Climate / Local campaigners call for more urgent action on climate change

Shetland Islands Council urged to divest from fossil fuels

Climate protesters gather in front of the Lerwick Town Hall. All photos: Shetland News

SATURDAY’s persistent rain did little to dampen the spirits of those who turned out for Shetland’s own climate rally, organised by local doctors and health workers.

The Lerwick climate crisis march was taking place alongside hundreds of similar events around the world including Glasgow where tens of thousands are marching through the city in what is the largest COP26 protest.

Protesters in Lerwick were urging politicians on every level of responsibility to grasp the realities of climate change and turn pledges into action.

They were also calling on the UK Government to cancel the planned development of the Cambo oilfield, 75 miles to the west of the islands.

Shetland has the highest carbon footprint of any local authority in the UK, mainly due to poorly insulated homes, and a reliance on fossil fuels in transport and industry as well as the production of electricity.

Stop Cambo, Insulate Shetland and Climate Crisis is a Health Crisis some of the banners read as around 30 activists set off from Lerwick Health Centre on their march to the town hall.

Southend councillor Allison (Flea) Duncan was the only politician participating. He said he did not agree with the calls to stop the Cambo development but agreed that climate change required urgent action.

One of the organisers, local consultant paediatrician Dr Alex Armitage, said that he felt a professional duty to join the demonstration and push for more urgent action.

“To reach net zero we must have a complete transformation of our society now. If we do not, I fear that children that I see in my clinic will face unimaginable horrors in their lifetimes,” he said.

“It feels difficult in Shetland coming and making a public stand against the fossil fuel industry, which employs many people locally and has brought prosperity to Shetland.

“However, the need for urgent decarbonisation is clear. We live in one of the windiest places in the northern hemisphere, in Shetland we have a huge opportunity to rapidly transition our energy economy into renewables.

“Opening up the Cambo oilfield shows a glaring lack of climate leadership from the government.”

During a series of short speeches on the steps of the town hall member of the local Greens James Paton called on Shetland Islands Council and Shetland Charitable Trust to urgently divest its funds from fossil fuel companies. He urged people to lobby their councillors and to consider standing in May’s council election.

South Mainland GP Dr Deepa Shah said moving to a low carbon economy could benefit public health.

“Action on climate change through decarbonisation of our lifestyles will not only improve the health of our planet but will also lead to significantly better mental and physical health for my patients.

“This will come about through healthier diets, more active travel, better insulated homes and a corresponding reduction in fuel poverty.

“Taking action on climate change means both a sustainable future on this planet for our children and also longer, healthier lives for ourselves.”