Carbon Neutral Islands: project progress report

We announced the commitment to support at least three islands to become fully carbon neutral by 2040 in the Programme for Government 2021-2022. This was raised further at COP 26 and the project now aims to support six islands become carbon neutral.


Scotland and the Climate Emergency

Climate change and nature loss are amongst the greatest threats facing our planet. Small, low-lying islands are under threat from climate change and predicted rising sea-levels. Climate change is expected to increase instances of flooding and coastal erosion, whilst simultaneously negatively affecting water supply, food production, health, tourism and accelerating habitat depletion.

Island communities on Barra, South Uist, Tiree, Sanday, to name just a few, are already facing the challenges of sea-level rise and coastal erosion.

Scotland has declared a climate emergency and stepped up its climate action and commitments through Scotland's 2019 Climate Change Act – calling for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Scotland's climate change legislation also ensures we prepare and adapt to the impacts which are already locked in, including rising sea levels and more extreme weather.

The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, the National Islands Plan and climate change as a strategic objective

Scotland's islands are at the heart of a unique place-based piece of legislation. In fact, the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 (the Act) is one of the few pieces of island-specific law in the world.

The Act requires Scottish Government to publish a National Islands Plan every five years setting out how we intend to improve outcomes for island communities. In December 2019 the first ever National Islands Plan was published, following an extensive community consultation.

Although almost all of the strategic objectives are related to the Carbon Neutral Islands Project, there are at least three that are directly relevant:

Strategic Objective 5: To reduce levels of fuel poverty

Strategic Objective 8: To improve and promote environmental wellbeing and deal with biosecurity

Strategic Objective 9: To contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation and promote clean, affordable and secure energy

Climate change and net zero has also featured prominently in the £25.8 million Islands Programme aimed at supporting delivery of the National Islands Plan. For example, following the success of our £2.5 million Islands Green Recovery Programme and due to the close alignment of our over-subscribed Island Communities Fund (ICF) with the ambitions and priorities of the Climate Change Division, on 2 November 2021, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Mr Matheson approved a further £526,000 of investment to the £2 million ICF; utilising finance transferred from the Sustainable Action Fund. This facilitated a second tranche of ICF projects and further investment in island projects that had strong community climate themes.

It is within this wider context, and building on the ambitious community-led vision for change, that we want to promote and support the huge potential and natural capital of our islands to help us reach our net zero and climate resilience ambitions.



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