27 March 2023

Sustainability Committee February roundup

The committee began with councillors recognising the work of 45 Aberdeenshire schools that have taken a proactive stance on climate and sustainability issues by successfully registering as Eco-Schools.

Completing an Eco-Schools Green Flag Application results in a Green Flag Award—an internationally recognised accreditation for excellence in sustainable education.

Eco-Schools is the largest sustainable schools programme in the world with 19.5 million children, young people, and educators engaged worldwide in 74 different countries. The programme is operated internationally by the Foundation for Environmental Education and delivered in Scotland by Keep Scotland Beautiful.

Councillors also highlighted several important upcoming events with sustainability themes including Climate Week North East which people can take part in until 2 April. The events are aimed at reducing carbon emissions, living more sustainably, and supporting biodiversity. A list of events can be found on Climate Week North East’s website.

Councillors also encouraged participation in the Keep Scotland Beautiful Spring Clean, which runs until 17 April, where individuals or groups get together to plan litter picks.


Update on greenspace projects 

Officers gave a presentation on the council’s greenspace projects and the important part they play in improving the variety of plants, animals, and insect-life in Aberdeenshire.

Importantly, 200 Scottish heritage apple trees were planted last year. In addition, it was noted how changes in mowing habits and allowing plants to occasionally go through their life cycle could have a huge effect on butterflies, with a positive anecdotal response to the butterfly population observed in Stonehaven.

You can learn more about Aberdeenshire Council’s approach to greenspace biodiversity online.


Route Map to 2030 and Beyond Progress 

Councillors considered the authority’s progress towards its emission reduction targets and future carbon budgets required to meet a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030-2031.

Councillors highlighted the need for ongoing pace and focus on these targets, while recognising the breadth and enormity of what is proposed

To develop the council's carbon budget, the focus has been on further opportunities to reduce emissions from operational buildings, fleet, and street lighting, as well as looking at additional energy efficiency and resource interventions.

LED street lighting continues to be rolled out across the region with significant cost and emission savings. Other proposed carbon savings include, but are not limited to, off-grid bus shelters, energy from waste, and a move to warm-mix road resurfacing.

In addition, the council continues to progress studies on its operational buildings to check the feasibility of air-source heat pumps, additional solar panels, wind generation, solar farms, and battery storage for excess energy.

Response to consultation on 2035 heat networks 

Councillors considered Aberdeenshire Council’s draft response to the 2035 Heat Networks Target consultation by the Scottish Government. 

The Heat Networks (Scotland) Act 2021 sets targets for the amount of heat to be supplied by heat networks. The Scottish Government’s ambition for heat networks is to deliver affordable and clean heat in support of emission reduction and fuel poverty targets.

Councillors commended the officers who worked on the response, noting that delivering such targets in a rural setting would be challenging and asked that the language in the response highlighted this. Councillors also asked that the question of how best to fund these ambitions be put to the Scottish Government.


Financing and delivering a Net Zero Scotland

Councillors were asked to consider the Scottish Parliament's Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee’s report and the summary of its recommendations on the role of local government and its cross-sectoral partners in financing and delivering a net-zero Scotland.

Aberdeenshire Council was able to provide a comprehensive response that demonstrated examples of good practice already in place, but also the challenges facing local authorities in being able to fully support and embed the delivery of a Net Zero Scotland.

Councillors highlighted the substantial costs councils face in responding to the many consultations they receive around net zero ambitions. It was suggested that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) highlight the general support needed for councils to take part in the bureaucratic aspect of finding funding and managing the various net zero projects required to achieve Scottish Government ambitions.

Road verge management 

The committee was asked to note the existing policy statement on road verge management.

The council has a statutory duty to maintain roadside verges, an important part of road infrastructure and fulfils many functions. It is for pedestrians, statutory undertakers such as telecoms companies undertaking work, and to provide forward visibility along the road.

Increasingly, verge areas are being used as part of a “nature network” to increase instances of native flora and fauna while balancing the safety and visibility needs of road users.

The council maintains approximately 10,000 kilometres of rural roadside verges, along with the verges in urban areas.  

Where verges are cut, there was discussion around the benefits of collecting the clippings and whether the nutrients returning to the soil are beneficial to flora, fauna, and ultimately the height of the verge vegetation.

Officers mentioned trial areas where quiet routes were maintained to encourage more pedestrian activity in the countryside.

A link to the view a recording of the whole committee meeting online can be found on the Sustainability Committee’s meeting page.