In 2007, Aberdeenshire Council set itself ambitious targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions – but the Council has not yet managed to achieve consistent year-on-year reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide generated by its activities.
“The Council must do better at meeting targets to cut its carbon emissions,” said Cllr Martin Ford. “And make cutting emissions a higher priority. That means a new approach is needed to when and where the Council takes its decisions about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Aberdeenshire’s Democratic Independent and Green Group (DIGG) councillors – Martin Ford and Paul Johnston – secured agreement last summer that the Council’s new administration would support improvements to decision making about reducing carbon emissions. (Note 1)
The DIGG councillors then wrote to Aberdeenshire Council’s co-leaders last September making a specific proposal that the Council sets a carbon budget each year – detailing how and where it aims to reduce its carbon emissions – and that the carbon budget is agreed by the full council at the meeting which decides the Council’s revenue and capital budgets for the year ahead. (See letter attached)
The Council’s co-leaders have now written to Cllr Ford and Cllr Johnston indicating their administration’s support for the DIGG carbon budgeting proposal. (Note 2)
A report from officers on carbon budgeting is now expected at the 10 March Aberdeenshire Council full council meeting.
Cllr Paul Johnston said: “We are very pleased the administration has agreed with us about the need to improve governance and decision making in respect of the Council’s duty to cut its carbon emissions. The Council has challenging and ambitious targets to meet and it is important every councillor is involved in the decisions needed to deliver on those.”
Cllr Martin Ford said: “Aberdeenshire Council agrees its overall financial plans for the year ahead on budget day in February each year – the revenue budget, capital plan and housing revenue account budget. But there should really be a fourth budget decided alongside the ‘money budgets’ – the Council’s plans for reducing its carbon emissions resulting from its various activities. The carbon budget is interlinked with the money budgets because some measures to reduce carbon emissions will incur capital costs, but also deliver revenue savings. So all the budgets ought to be considered at the same meeting and be consistent with each other.”
Aberdeenshire Council, like all Scottish councils, is required by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 to exercise its functions ‘in the way best calculated to contribute to delivery of the Act’s emission reduction targets’. At the climate change conference in Paris late last year, 196 countries agreed to ‘hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels’.
- The DIGG’s ‘confidence and supply’ agreement struck with the new Aberdeenshire administration in May 2015 says:’The Council will include tackling climate change as one of its overarching strategic priorities. The Council will review the governance and scrutiny arrangements for ensuring its decisions with climate change implications are taken in line with its policy commitments and national targets.’
- Letter from co-leaders to DIGG councillors:
Dear Martin and Paul,
We refer to your letter of 25 September 2015 regarding the governance arrangements for elected member scrutiny of carbon emissions, and our subsequent discussions regarding this topic over recent weeks.
As you point out, our confidence and supply agreement dated 26 May 2015 expresses a shared commitment to reviewing the governance and scrutiny arrangements regarding carbon emissions. Your suggestion of implementing a ‘Carbon Budgeting’ process, if adopted by Aberdeenshire Council, could be a way not just of fulfilling that requirement within our agreement, but also of providing the evidence base necessary for improved decision making in this regard during the budget process.
In pursuit of this, we are happy to ask officers to prepare a paper for consideration at the March 2016 Full Council on carbon budgeting and how this could be incorporated into our existing budget processes. If agreed, this would then allow Aberdeenshire Council to incorporate the information necessary for effective carbon budgeting in time for the 2016/17 budget engagement process.
We trust that this is in order and look forward to hearing back from you in due course.
With best wishes,
Richard Thomson Martin Kitts-Hayes
Co-Leader, Aberdeenshire Council Co-Leader, Aberdeenshire Council