Cleaner Air for Scotland 2 - Towards a Better Place for Everyone

A new air quality strategy to replace Cleaner Air for Scotland - The Road to a Healthier Future, setting out the Scottish Government's air quality policy framework for the next five years and a series of actions to deliver further air quality improvements.

2. Integrated Policy

39. The public health effects of indoor air quality and noise pollution correlate strongly with those of outdoor air pollution. Similarly, there is significant overlap between the measures needed to address climate change and improve air quality in areas such as transport, agriculture and industrial emissions. Effort to address these issues in a more coordinated way offers additional likely co-benefits. Improving air quality makes an important contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals[38] and the Scottish Government's National Outcomes.[39] In a wider context, further progress in embedding placemaking principles across all policy areas will deliver benefits for both physical and mental health through creating better urban spaces that are more attractive to spend time and easier to move around in. Associated positive impacts on land and water quality, biodiversity and ecosystem health will also arise from such an approach.

40. CAFS 2 must work in tandem with other key Scottish Government strategies in order to achieve the vision for Scotland to have the best air quality in Europe. Clear synergies exist between these strategies, which include (but are not limited to):

Cleaner Air for Scotland Scotland to have the best air quality in Europe

1. Environment Strategy for Scotland

The Environment Strategy for Scotland: vision and outcomes

2. Climate Change Plan

Securing a green recovery on a path to net zero: climate change plan 2018–2032 – update – (

3. National Planning Framework

National Planning Framework | Transforming Planning

4. Respiratory Care Action Plan

Respiratory care - action plan: 2021 to 2026

5. Land Use Strategy

Land use - getting the best from our land: strategy 2021 to 2026

6. Scottish Nitrogen Balance Sheet

Climate change

7. Infrastructure Investment Plan

Government finance: Infrastructure investment – (

8. National Transport Strategy 2

National Transport Strategy 2

41. The Environment Strategy for Scotland creates an overarching framework for Scotland's strategies and plans on the environment and climate change. Its 2045 vision and supporting outcomes set our ambition for restoring Scotland's natural environment and playing our full role in tackling the global climate and nature crises. In turn, this will support a stronger, more resilient economy, improve the health and wellbeing of Scotland's people and help to ensure we live within the planet's sustainable limits.

42. CAFS 2 will support delivery of this strategic approach, including many of the Strategy's outcomes. Specifically, those including protecting and restoring Scotland's natural environment and creating a fairer, healthier and more inclusive society.

Linking in with this strategic approach are Scotland's guiding principles on the environment. The guiding principles, set out in section 13(1) of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) Scotland) Act 2021 ("the Continuity Act") are:

  • the principle that protecting the environment should be integrated into the making of policies;
  • the precautionary principle;
  • the principle that preventative action should be taken;
  • the principle that environmental damage should be rectified at source; and
  • the principle that polluter should pay.

43. The Continuity Act places a duty on both ministers and public authorities to have due regard to the guiding principles when developing policies and legislation, supporting our objectives to maintain and improve environmental standards and contribute to Scotland's response to the twin climate and nature crises. These principles have informed the development of CAFS 2 and will inform our actions as the strategy is implemented.

44. It is crucial that our transport and placemaking agendas interact in a way that drives real and measurable emissions reduction, whilst enabling great places where people live, work and play to become even more connected, accessible, affordable and efficient. Regional Transport Partnerships (RTPs) and Regional/Local Transport Strategies have an important role to play here too.

Air pollution and climate change

45. Greenhouse gases and air pollutants share common sources, notably transport, energy generation and land use practices, and will thus benefit from many of the same policy interventions. Some air pollutants can also act as greenhouse gases (e.g. ozone) or contribute to their formation (e.g. nitrogen oxides). Conversely, changes in the climate will impact on air quality; increases in temperature may affect ozone formation, increasing the frequency and severity of summer photochemical smogs, and increase emission rates of ammonia. At the same time, air pollution and climate change generally act at different scales, both spatially and temporally. Greenhouse gases are most active high up in the atmosphere, whereas the most important factors for air quality are the location and level of concentration of pollutants nearer the earth's surface, with increased impacts near emission hotspots. There are also complex relationships and trade-offs between the various pollutants that need to be managed. For example black carbon makes a significant warming contribution, besides being an important component of particulate matter (PM). Reducing such emissions therefore has a clear benefit for both climate change and air quality. On the other hand, whilst reducing sulphur dioxide emissions has been positive for both public health and the environment, atmospheric cooling from sulphate or 'white' aerosols (secondary PM) it helps to form is also reduced.

46. With transport being Scotland's largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting sector,[40] the National Transport Strategy (NTS) climate action and health/wellbeing priorities highlight the crucial role of transport in delivering improvements to both climate and air quality emissions. Actions on climate change and air quality can present policy interlinkages and offer tangible co-benefits[41] in a way that supports delivery of our air quality vision.[42]

47. Employers across all sectors are adapting Carbon Management Plans (CMPs) to formulate GHG strategies that support the net-zero agenda[43] and circular economy. In doing so, many CMPs are broadening their reach beyond traditional aspects such as estate energy management and travel planning, but we should not lose sight of these core tenets, particularly given the thinking and lessons learnt around homeworking and estate management prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

48. In 2016, the CAFS Governance Group commissioned a report 'Synergies and tensions between climate change and air quality actions'.[44] The report, including 50 key recommendations, was intended to help inform the 2018 Scottish Climate Change Plan. The report also contributed to the work of a UK cross-department group that has been set up to explore the requirements and opportunities for cross disciplinary research to provide a stronger evidence base for analysing the synergies and tensions of policy and regulation of air quality and climate change. Of the 50 recommendations made in the report, 38 presented strong evidence of synergies between tackling climate change and improving air quality simultaneously.

49. By 2018, Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions had declined by 50% since a 1990/1995 baseline. The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019[45] sets a target of net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. The Act also sets interim targets of a 75% emissions reduction by 2030, and 90% by 2040. The Scottish Government has updated its 2018 Climate Change Plan[46] to account for the new targets in the 2019 Act. The Climate Change Plan update (CCPu) sets out plans for a green recovery from COVID-19, alongside a strategy to meet future emissions reduction targets over the period to 2032.

50. Building on the initial policies set out in the Scottish Government's Programme for Scotland 2019-20,[47] the CCPu contains a wide range of measures that will provide air quality benefits, aligning closely with the aims of this strategy. Measures include our ambitious commitment to reduce car kilometers by 20% by 2030, our commitment to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, our investments in active travel and our policies aimed at reducing emissions from the freight sector. We have committed to annual progress reporting against the CCPu, and in May 2021 we published our first report since the CCPu included a refreshed monitoring framework. The report will include our assessment of whether progress towards our indicators is on track. Relevant indicators include the percentage reduction in car kilometers, and several indicators on the increase in number of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs).

51. A key part of the Scottish Government's approach on climate change is ensuring a just transition. This means reducing emissions in a way which is fair for all and leaves no-one behind. The Climate Change (Emission Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 contains a set of just transition principles, that ministers must have regard to when setting out plans to reduce emissions.

52. To further support the application of just transition principles, in 2019 the Scottish Government established the Just Transition Commission to advise ministers on how we can maximise the economic and social opportunities of meeting our climate change targets, while managing the challenges.[48] The Commission published its final report in March 2021, containing a range of recommendations to help deliver a just transition in Scotland.[49] We have committed to publishing a full, considered, cross-government response to the report by late summer this year. We will also maintain the Commission to advise us throughout the course of the next Parliament.

53. The Scottish Government's approach on just transition is in line with the desired outcome of better air quality. Embedding just transition principles in government policy will therefore help deliver a win-win in the form of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality for people all over Scotland, in turn ensuring the benefits of climate action are shared widely.

54. The Scottish Government's approach to adapting to the impacts of climate change here in Scotland which cannot be avoided is set out in the second statutory Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (which covers the period to 2024).[50] The Programme follows an outcome-based framework aligned to Scotland's National Performance Framework and UN SDGs, within which the impacts of air quality on health is recognised. Delivery of the current strategy will support progress to Scotland's climate change adaptation and resilience outcomes.

Air pollution and noise

55. As yet there are no fixed noise level targets in Scotland or the rest of the UK. In 2002, the EU adopted the Environmental Noise Directive[51] which stipulates that measurements must be taken of ambient noise, with the results being made publicly available and action plans for noise reduction must be agreed. The World Health Organization (WHO) published guidance in 2018 on environmental noise levels taking account of existing health effects evidence.[52]

56. In Scotland's four biggest cities, it has been estimated that over 1 million people are exposed to noise levels in excess of the WHO guidelines during the daytime and over 0.8 million during the night, with evidence indicating that deprived communities suffer more.[53] The health impact costs have not been directly estimated in Scotland but, based on WHO estimates elsewhere, are likely to be considerable.

57. As with urban air pollution, the major source of ambient noise is road traffic. The adverse impacts of air pollution are closely correlated with those of noise, making it difficult to separately assess the impact of traffic noise on health. However, this does mean that many interventions aimed at reducing traffic-sourced air pollution are also likely to help reduce excess traffic-sourced noise. These interventions range from traffic reduction in urban areas to physical solutions such as green barriers along roads.


We will:

  • Work with local authorities to ensure that noise action plans are closely aligned with air quality action plans to deliver co-benefits. Guidance will be produced to facilitate this.
  • Ensure that all actions taken by the Scottish Government to address air quality maximise the potential for co-benefits with climate change mitigation and adaptation. The 50 recommendations for maximising co-benefits set out in the CAFS Governance Group climate change report will be used to guide this process. We will work with local authorities to ensure that a similar approach is taken at local level.
  • Ensure that actions in the Scottish Government's Climate Change Plan maximise co-benefits for air quality.
  • Ensure that the Scottish Nitrogen Balance Sheet to be established by March 2022, reflects the contributions to air pollution from all sectors of the economy. Also, ensure that the new evidence base from the Balance Sheet is used to inform future policy making around air quality and its alignment with other strategic frameworks. Once established, the Balance Sheet will be reviewed on a regular basis.



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