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RGU sustainability experts urge Aberdeen to look to the future

17/01/14

Experts at Robert Gordon University (RGU) are encouraging people and businesses in the north-east to take the lead in driving forward a more sustainable vision for Aberdeen as one of their New Year's resolutions.

Members of RGU's Centre for Understanding Sustainable Practice (CUSP) have been involved in the Aberdeen City Council and EU-funded MUSIC (Mitigation in Urban Areas: Solutions for Innovative Cities) project, which looks to halve harmful emissions in the city by 2050, and want more people to come onboard in 2014.

Aberdeen is one of five European cities to take part in the initiative, alongside Rotterdam, Gent, Ludwigsburg and Montreuil. The cities are working together to look at ways of increasing their sustainability, alongside business and communities, with each developing an energy transition vision, strategy and action plan.

Wendy Devall, MUSIC Project Manager at Aberdeen City Council, said: "The global climate is constantly changing and adapting. However, since the end of the 20th century awareness has been growing that changes to our climate are accelerating, partly through human behaviours like burning of fossil fuels, as well as deforestation around the world.

"Concern about these issues has lead to international action and the development of European projects, such as the MUSIC project which aims to reduce carbon emissions in five European cities. A stakeholder led process took place as part of the Aberdeen MUSIC project which brought together a group of individuals to discuss the future of energy in Aberdeen and the positive changes we can make."

Among the aims included in Aberdeen's action plan is securing community involvement, encouraging organisations to take a leadership role, improving transport links, introducing children to the idea of sustainability at a young age and examining diversification of the economy away from oil and gas.

RGU's Dr Ebun Akinsete, facilitator of the MUSIC project, said: "If Aberdeen is truly to become the low carbon energy capital it aspires to be, then concrete steps must be taken to back up the rhetoric.

"As energy is an issue which cuts across all aspects of day to day life, an integrated and multi-sector approach to sustainability which considers the social, environmental and economic functions of the city is needed to drive Aberdeen towards a more resilient future.

"It is a new year and a fresh chance for the residents, businesses and organisations within Aberdeen and the surrounding areas to look at how to move towards that aim together."

Director of CUSP, Dr Alan Owen, added: "The solution of a more sustainable way of life must come from changing the behaviour of people in a city like Aberdeen, not through a technological solution. There is no magic bullet. It is the responsibility of businesses, organisations and individual people to take this forward; it does not fall solely to the local authority. We cannot rely on other people to take action for us.

"Equally, people must be consulted on their wishes because if there is no support from the communities involved, then nothing will happen. There needs to be that buy in from residents, as well as visible leadership from organisations who will champion this transition plan."

He continued: "The only constant in life is change. Aberdeen needs to recognise that the oil and gas industry is not the only game in town and what comes next is something which needs to be considered now.

"We also need better and more integrated public transport and we need more employers who will look at flexible working as an option for staff – how many people actually need to travel into Aberdeen each day?

"We should celebrate action, celebrate the positive stories that are coming out of Aberdeen, but we also need to be able to recognise what has failed in the past and how we can move things forward."

To find out more about the vision, action and how to get involved, view the project report: 'Aberdeen in Transition – A Journey to 2050' which is available on the MUSIC webpage at www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/musicproject

Find out more about the work of CUSP by visiting www.rgu.ac.uk/cusp

Five small household changes you can make in 2014 to help contribute to sustainable change:

•Only boil what you need in the kettle

•Switch off your appliances from the plug when not in use - don't leave them on standby

•Turn down your hot water thermostat by a few degrees – you won't notice the difference

•Investigate loft insulation schemes via your local authority

•Use heavy curtains during the winter as most heat is lost from openings like windows and doors, even when shut