Leading councillors are hopeful they will be be able to sell Aberdeen on the world stage towards the end of the year – mapping out their plans for a return to global energy conferences and trade talks.
As the nation turned to video calling to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues, so too have staff at the local authority as they look to carve out a new future for the north-east region as a giant in low carbon energy.
But, with a cautious estimate that international travel could be back on the agenda towards the end of the year, councillors have planned visits to far flung destinations including Colombia, Brazil, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
A budget of £67,200 has been set aside in the annual budget for international trade activity and to accommodate the Lord Provost Barney Crockett‘s required travel as president of the World Energy Cities Partnership (WECP).
But councillors raised concerns about the safety of staff and the potential for them to have to spend up to 10 days in isolation upon their return, if government rules changed about travel to and from their destination while they were away.
Packed international schedule for the last three months of 2021
Plans are being drawn up for one councillor and an official to travel to Barranquilla, Colombia; Villahermosa and Ciudad dl Carmen in Meixco; and Macae, Brazil.
They hope they will seal the deal on memoranda of understanding (MOUs) signed with the governments of the emerging energy states.
The Mexican and Brazilian deals, aimed at exporting the energy sector expertise of the Granite City further afield, were both signed virtually last year, as was another with Muroran City in Japan.
Meanwhile, as WECP president, Mr Crockett, and a council officer, is expected to visit newest member Uslan, South Korea – and he is due a trip to the WECP annual general meeting in Dammam, Saudi Arabia with two Town House officials.
The civic head is also expected to travel with a staff member to Houston for the Cera Week conference and to Ufa in Russia for a Media-Cultural Forum.
From there he could potentially visit St Petersburg to meet a potential new WECP member – and there are tentative plans for council reps to make journeys to Nigeria, Angola, Vietnam and Singapore as well.
Great to catch up virtually this morning with friends and colleagues in Muroran City, Japan. With common interests in hydrogen and offshore wind, it is great to continue building our relationship and explore opportunities for both cities. pic.twitter.com/ePEXj93r8h
— Lord Provost Abdn (@LordProvostAbdn) May 12, 2021
Additionally, there could be trips to Council of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) meetings in the Netherlands and Crete, and to several North Sea Commission (NSC) meetings at destinations yet to be determined.
Keeping a ‘watching brief’ on Covid risks, as council prepares to send staff abroad again
Chief city growth officer Richard Sweetnam admitted the itinerary could be derailed, depending on the coronavirus situation in each country.
He said: “We would only be in a position to go to countries when it is safe to do so.
“Everything is dependent on safe travel and Covid restrictions.
“Our anticipation is, in terms of the EU activity, those conferences will not require a physical presence – as far as we know certainly up to autumn, if not winter.
“So from that point of view we would expect there may still be a virtual, as opposed to a hybrid presence.”
International trade and investment team leader, Morag McCorkindale, interjected: “The ones mentioned in the report are due to take place after October.
“They are all scheduled for October, November at the earliest.
“So they might go ahead in-person, subject to safe travel conditions.”
Options for offsetting the carbon from the ramped up international travel are to be explored as part of the carbon budget, which is being prepared for a future meeting of the city growth and resources committee.