The scale, urgency and complexity of the task are unprecedented, with dire consequences if it fails. Every part of society and the economy will need to make significant changes if we are to be successful.
Assuming that increasing renewable energy development alone will allow Scotland to meet its targets is not an option. To achieve the transformative change our ambition demands, we must exploit every opportunity to innovate.
Our Scandinavian neighbors can lead the way by providing inspiration and advanced innovations, and we can observe how they have applied technology to make significant impact and change.
Denmark is set to invest £ 24 billion in its biggest infrastructure project, an ‘energy island’ 80 km into the North Sea, initially connecting 200 wind turbines. The electricity produced will be distributed in European countries and used on the island to make hydrogen from seawater. This green hydrogen will be used to power ships, industry and aviation.
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And in Sweden, green hydrogen is used in the steel smelting process, essentially as a byproduct of water, not carbon dioxide. Through sector coupling (where industries integrate better to manage consumption), steel is used in the automotive industry to help reduce its carbon footprint. Scotland may be tapping into the huge potential of renewables, but Sweden is showing that a focus on sector coupling could be very successful.
Another example can be found in Norway. With geographic similarities to Scotland, the country is poised to build a 1,000-kilometer motorway along its west coast to enable fast and efficient ferry-free travel between economic centers and to provide a sustainable future for its people. rural communities.
The fjords and mountains will be crossed by a series of tunnels and bridges where carbon reduction will be the key to its construction. Norway is already investing in materials, research and its already exceptional electric vehicle charging network, ensuring that new infrastructure contributes to sustainable cross-sector benefits and reducing the country’s carbon footprint.
Interesting to Scottish island communities, the Faroe Islands have been transformed by improved connectivity through the construction of underwater road tunnels. These weather-resistant, fast and reliable gateways provide 24-hour access from the Island Group to amenities in the capital, Torshavn. The positive impact on rural communities has been remarkable, with significant carbon benefits.
With a look to the future, Scotland could take inspiration from the Faroe Islands model and we could head to the islands of the north and west of Scotland, and more directly to Argyll and Bute.
With the unprecedented challenges posed by the climate emergency, we must learn from others beyond our borders and take advantage of the opportunities they inspire. In doing so, Scotland will be able to reap better economic and societal benefits in the future.
Professor Andy Sloan is the Managing Director of COWI in the UK, one of Scandinavia’s leading engineering consultants and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. CSR is Scotland’s National Academy, which brings together great minds to contribute to the social, cultural and economic well-being of Scotland. Learn more at rse.org.uk and @RoyalSocEd.