Leaders from business and local government in Aberdeen are committed and enthusiastic about tackling the climate crisis. That came through loud and clear on a recent workshop I facilitated.
Our workshop participants shared some fascinating insights on what we need to do to accelerate the green transition in our city. Here are the key points I took away from the session:
This is a golden opportunity for Aberdeen
People think of business in Aberdeen and they think oil and gas. Around a quarter of local jobs are in the oil and gas industry, which is of course a significant polluter. We shouldn’t be looking at that as something that puts the city behind on the race to net zero though. If anything it presents the city with a golden opportunity – to be the spearhead of the UK’s, and the world’s, transition to green energy.
And that could mean growth for the city. The oil and gas sector currently accounts for 80% of the UK’s 160,000 energy-sector jobs, most of them centred around Aberdeen. Research from the city’s Robert Gordon University suggests that the UK reaching net zero by 2045-50 would increase this to some 200,000.
Local businesses want a greater sense of direction
This golden opportunity presents Aberdeen with a dual task – to manage the city’s own transition to net zero and drive the transition to sustainable energy. And at present, while there’s commitment, there are also lots of questions about how we do that. In particular, many smaller businesses simply don’t know where to start and can’t necessarily afford specialist advice.
What’s needed is a greater sense of direction – a shared vision for the city. And that needs to be underpinned by a clear roadmap that sets out the opportunities for local businesses. Then we can move beyond headline figures and enable businesses to start moving in the right direction.
The roadmap for change needs to be joined-up
When we’re creating the roadmap, we need to make sure that all our climate initiatives are joined up. Can we identify where an initiative actually has benefits beyond the environmental – improving social equality and prosperity in the region? How do we avoid action in one area actually having a detrimental impact in another?
Here’s an example one of our workshop participants gave of this: “If we reduce meat consumption and remove cattle from Scotland, what’s the impact on crop yields? Do we have to rely more on artificial fertiliser?”
We need to excite business
We can’t hang about waiting for a perfect plan though. We simply don’t have time. We need a roadmap in place that businesses and people can relate to, and that will drive action now. That means talking in their language about things that mean something to them. Talk of 1.5 degrees and net zero doesn’t always resonate.
If we’re to have a vibrant regional economy, the roadmap needs to excite businesses. We need them to recognise the transition as an opportunity – to move into new markets, to engage consumers – as well as a necessity.