The push to meet carbon net zero targets represents the best opportunity to achieve fixed links in Shetland, a councillor has claimed.
Shetland Central member Moraig Lyall said that with half of the SIC’s emissions coming from its inter-islands ferries, fixed links must be prioritised.
Mrs Lyall’s comments were made during discussions on a climate change report at the SIC’s meeting today (Wednesday).
The report outlined progress made in reducing emissions and strategies going forward – but the issue of fixed links dominated the debate.
Mrs Lyall said the long-term need to replace Shetland’s ageing ferry fleet was now aligning with carbon reduction targets.
“And with money available from Westminster and Scottish government for green recovery projects, this must surely represent the best opportunity to see progress in this area,” she said.
“I would encourage our leaders to drive forward with this.”
ZetTrans chairman Ryan Thomson said there was “no question” fixed links would come.
“We need to look to the future and modern day technology rather than outdated technology, which ferries are for certain routes,” he said.
While acknowledging tunnels would not be possible for more remote islands, such as Fair Isle, Mr Thomson said there were four routes where it was “perfectly possible and probable” to provide fixed links.
Mr Thomson said the council needed to find fit for purpose, low carbon ferries for the more remote isles, while speaking to governments about the feasibility of fixed links for the suitable routes.
North Isles member Alec Priest said the council must prioritise using less energy – not just switching to green alternatives.
“Even green ferries still use 20 times more power than fixed links would,” he said.
“So we need to be looking not only to go green but to reduce power where possible and obviously fixed links is a major place where we could save a lot in power usage.”
The SIC’s leader Steven Coutts noted the importance of making a compelling business case for fixed links to government, which could involve environmental arguments.
Aside from fixed links, peatland restoration was another area members felt to be particularly important in tackling climate change.
Mrs Lyall said the Scottish government had also identified it as a priority, with an aim to restore 250,000 hectares of peatland by 2030.
“This is a prime example of green recovery action that fits Shetland perfectly,” she added.
Shetland North member Alastair Cooper warned that climate change was already having an effect on Shetland, highlighting the heavy rain this May and its impact on lambing season as just one example.
Outlining some of the work already under taken, climate change strategy team leader Claire Ferguson said consultants had recently been sought to create two net zero route maps – one for the SIC and the other for Shetland as a whole.
The SIC recently started a “climate conversation initiative” with an initial survey seeking public views on the subject gaining 848 responses, which Ms Ferguson and members welcomed as an excellent uptake.
Around 80 per cent of responses agreed there was a climate emergency and more than two thirds felt it was important to do everything necessary to respond.
A climate change working group has also been created to discuss related policies and support collaboration across council departments.