Aberdeen City Council (Net Zero Ambitions)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 September 2022.

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Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting Aberdeen City Council to meet its net zero ambitions. (S6O-01396)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government continues to work closely with local authorities to tackle the global climate emergency, including through the Scottish Cities Alliance.

We are supporting Aberdeen City Council in a number of ways. As a full partner in the Aberdeen city region deal, we are contributing £125 million over 10 years, alongside an additional £254 million, which will help to ensure economic transformation for the north-east with inclusive growth, increased wellbeing and a just transition to net zero.

This month, we announced that our north-east and Moray just transition fund will provide £20 million to projects this year, representing a total value of more than £50 million over four years, to support a fair transition to net zero and to diversify the regional economy in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.

We are also supporting a low-carbon infrastructure green growth accelerator pathfinder project in Aberdeen. Alongside that, we are providing some £75 million through the energy transition fund to support our energy sector and the north-east over the next five years to make progress on energy transition as we move towards a net zero society by 2045.

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

I thank the cabinet secretary for his answer. Aberdeen City Council has an ambitious plan, with the ultimate aim of becoming a net zero and climate resilient council. The six key strands of the plan focus on mobility, buildings and heat, the circular economy, energy supply, the natural environment and empowerment.

Will the cabinet secretary join me in welcoming that ambitious plan for Aberdeen? Can he go into further detail on how communities in my Aberdeen Donside constituency will be able to take action to help to reach the net zero goal through the community empowerment legislation?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I very much welcome the work that Aberdeen City Council is taking forward through its climate change plan, and the work of other local authorities across the country. As a country, we have a target of achieving net zero by 2045, and all parts of the public and private sectors need to play their part in ensuring that we achieve that.

Alongside supporting local authorities to create greater community empowerment, we introduced the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 to support communities to take more control over the decisions that affect them, their economies, their wellbeing and their local environments.

This year, we have supplemented that work with £1 million through the just transition fund that will be allocated through the participatory budgeting programme in Aberdeen city, Aberdeenshire and Moray, with the aim of empowering local communities to have a direct say in how funding will be spent on projects that lead to a just transition to net zero.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I will take a supplementary question from Colin Smyth as the Labour spokesperson.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

Thank you, Presiding Officer. Transport remains the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and one of the biggest barriers to councils delivering net zero. The Scottish National Party promised in its manifesto to remove the majority of fossil fuel buses from Scotland by 2023—a promise that was repeated in last year’s programme for government. However,

Transform Scotland’s research suggests that just 16 per cent of the fleet will be electric or hydrogen powered by the end of next year. Can the cabinet secretary tell us whether that figure is correct? If the target is not met in 2023, when will the Government meet it?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

We are taking forward a range of work to ensure that we decarbonise our bus network. The member will be aware of the significant levels of investment that the Scottish Government has already made in electrification of the bus network.

One of the aspects in Aberdeen city is hydrogen buses, which we have been supporting. The city has the biggest hydrogen bus network in Europe, I believe, as a result of the investment and support that have been provided by the Scottish Government. That is why, working with Aberdeen City Council and other partners, we have been making sure that we continue the decarbonisation of the bus network.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

The cabinet secretary mentioned the just transition fund. There are about 120 applicants for the first £20 million of that fund, and they are desperate to get going and start making investment decisions. We know that the Scottish Government selected the successful bidders several weeks ago but has failed to announce them. Constituents have suggested to me that the announcement has been delayed until the SNP conference. Will the cabinet secretary counter those suggestions by publishing the successful names now?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I am sure that Liam Kerr will welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to taking forward the just transition fund for the north-east and Moray. We have identified the successful projects, as a result of the criteria that were applied in assessing the projects, and details will be announced soon by the Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work, Richard Lochhead.

I gently point out to Liam Kerr that the just transition fund for the north-east and Moray is a £500 million programme over the next 10 years, and we have repeatedly called on the United Kingdom Government to match that, but it has failed to do so. If the member is so keen on more money going into the north-east and Moray, he might want to try to get his colleagues at Westminster to step up and match the Scottish Government’s level of ambition for that area.