Almost exactly a year ago I attended the first meeting of the Low Carbon Infrastructure Task Force. This group of key figures from across the infrastructure life cycle in Scotland met for the first time to try and identify the engineering priorities for a climate proofed future under the banner of Scotland’s Way Ahead.
The shared hope was that by bringing together a broad range of experts we could explore how Scotland’s proud engineering tradition could be harnessed to tackle fuel poverty, improve public health, create jobs and slash carbon emissions. The Task Force set out to identify what Scotland’s future should look like and what we must do to build it. We drew on expertise from the finance sector, legal, engineering, development, and academia to make sure we tested every need and value when shortlisting our chosen projects for Scotland’s future.
We started out with Green Alliance setting out the case for public sector investment in infrastructure for a low carbon future. The engineering firm Jacobs then built on this to identify ten possible projects, these ranged from community energy to waste water energy plants and plenty more in between. The Task Force then set out to shine a light on the three most pressing projects, the vital foundations for a low carbon economy. We put the ten possible projects through a rigorous process involving many experts and 1000s of members of the public who were asked to say which they felt was most deserving of being taken forward and developed by the Scottish Government. I’m delighted to say that at an event last week, hosted by Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chairman of the Green Investment Bank, Scotland’s Climate Change Minister, Dr Aileen McLeod, revealed the top three projects we believe are the most deserving of genuine development in a 21st Century Scotland.
The final shortlist includes City transport transformation this project looks to re-engineer our cities to allow people live and travel in low-carbon ways- connecting public transport within and across cities, reducing air pollution from private vehicles and making it easier and safer to travel on foot or by bike. Examples of this type of project elsewhere even show that projects like this can boost local business and improve the local economy. The next is urban district heating networks, building Scandinavian-style heating into Scotland’s cities which would aim to join up isolated “district heat islands” and develop future-proofed heating networks. This would allowing homes and businesses to connect to a heat network and benefit from renewable sources of power, energy efficiency and reduced emissions. The third and final project is a critical prerequisite for any improvements we make to heating our homes and buildings; an energy efficiency retrofit programme to make all of Scotland’s buildings warm, healthy and affordable to heat. This is about improving our homes, businesses and public sector buildings to be more energy efficient, and in doing so reduce fuel poverty, improve health and ensure long-term financial savings. If taken forward at the scale needed these three projects could transform the lives of people in Scotland for the better.
In fact the Task force heard how just such a vision and leadership delivered lasting improvements for the people of Toronto. The former Mayor of Toronto David Miller – now CEO of WWF-Canada – spoke by video link to the event and told the story of how Toronto grasped the challenge and targeted public investment to help build a low carbon city. New infrastructure to support active travel like walking and cycling made the city a better place to live, energy retrofit in buildings, proved a significant job creator, and clean energy generation has cut emissions across the city.
I’m proud to have been involved in such an innovative project but this is not the end. There is still much to be done to ensure future capital investment is fit for a low carbon future. We need a steady pipeline of low carbon infrastructure options and this project has shown Scotland’s way ahead.
What do you think of the shortlisted projects? Let us know.