Publication - Progress report

Draft climate change plan: draft third report on policies and proposals 2017-2032

Published: 19 Jan 2017
Energy and Climate Change Directorate
Part of:
Environment and climate change

Draft of the climate change plan, the third report on proposals and policies (RPP3) for meeting Scotland’s annual greenhouse gas emissions targets.

175 page PDF

1.9 MB

175 page PDF

1.9 MB

Draft climate change plan: draft third report on policies and proposals 2017-2032
5. Achieving transformational change

175 page PDF

1.9 MB

5. Achieving transformational change

5.1 The role of behaviours in achieving transformational change

5.1.1 The transition to low carbon Scotland will require all of us to take action: changing the ways we get around; the ways we insulate and heat our homes; and the ways we purchase products and services to support the circular economy. Delivering these changes in our behaviours will require cultural shifts and major infrastructural and technological advances over the coming years.

5.1.2 Infrastructural and technological measures are crucial in moving us towards a low carbon Scotland, and the effectiveness of many of them depends heavily on the extent to which people adopt and use them. Understanding how and why people behave the way they do is key if we are to design interventions that encourage the uptake of low carbon initiatives. Understanding what influences behaviours is thus critical to delivering the outcomes in this draft Plan, and ultimately achieving our climate change ambitions.

Influencing behaviours: The ISM approach

5.1.3 People's choices and behaviours are influenced in various ways - within the values and attitudes that we hold, the habits we have learned, the people around us, and the tools and infrastructure available to us in our day-to-day lives. To influence the way we all behave, a package of interventions, that takes account of the wider aspects of our daily lives, will generally be more successful.

5.1.4 The ISM approach was developed to help understand all of the contexts that shape people's behaviours - the Individual, the Social and the Material. By understanding the different contexts and the multiple factors within them that influence the way we act every day, more effective policies and interventions can be developed.

5.1.5 The Individual level includes an individual's values, attitudes and skills, the Social context includes factors that influence us through networks, relationships and social norms, and the Material context covers factors like infrastructure, technologies and regulations.

5.1.6 Experience of using the ISM approach, across a range of policy areas including housing, energy, transport and forestry, has highlighted key benefits including:

  • providing greater understanding of the wide range of factors that will impact on successful delivery of policies
  • giving clarity on the areas to be targeted and prioritised
  • highlighting the relative importance of different factors in effecting change and using these as levers to change, in particular, the importance of considering the social context in delivering and developing policies

5.1.7 The Scottish Government has used the ISM approach in various ways to support policy development, including:

  • Running smaller internal workshops to initially explore behaviours, current behaviours landscapes (drilling down into the behaviours and looking at the evidence we have and how this fits within the ISM framework), and identifying key stakeholders. This insight helps frame the ISM workshop with key stakeholders.
  • Delivering ISM workshops with broad groups of stakeholders. The aim of the workshop is to gather wider views on the behavioural challenge, investigating the current landscape and identifying potential barriers and gaps.
  • Following up the ISM workshops with a small working group approach focused on action planning and delivery, using insight (potential barriers and gaps) from initial workshops.
  • Using the ISM framework to support literature reviews of the behavioural challenge.

5.1.8 We will test the ISM approach later in 2017 as a potential way to engage the public on policies and policy development. Building on the initial housing workshops (which brought together a range of key stakeholders) we are developing an ISM style workshop to engage the public on the same behaviour. The aim is to bring together a small group of members of the public to supplement the initial ISM workshop findings with a public point of view.

5.1.9 Using the ISM approach across low carbon policy areas will also support the implementation of policies and proposals in the final Climate Change Plan, and delivery of policy outcomes.

Engaging with people on climate change

5.1.10 With half the Scottish population stating that climate change is an immediate and urgent problem, an increase of five percentage points on the previous year, we are seeing progress in engaging people about the urgency of climate change. Public understanding, engagement and action are critical to the social and economic transformations required to achieve a low carbon society.

5.1.11 As part of the ongoing engagement with the public, the Scottish Government initiated a series of Climate Conversations, held across Scotland, to encourage a public discussion about climate change. By participating in Climate Conversations, people who do not generally talk about climate change are able to engage in the issues in a way that matters to them. The outcomes from these conversations are feeding into the development and communication of climate change policies.

5.1.12 These conversations have 'taken the temperature' of public views on climate change and the actions that might be needed to tackle it, by engaging people in meaningful conversation about the wider impacts of climate change and the measures that might be needed to mitigate its causes and effects. These group discussions enable participants to share their views on climate change, on potential policies to tackle climate change, and on potential changes to people's everyday lives. The key findings from the conversations to date are:

Knowledge of climate change

  • People are generally aware of climate change as both an issue and a problem and were aware that action is necessary to tackle it. There was some confusion between concepts and some factual inaccuracy in the conversations. However, many of the participants appeared reasonably well informed.
  • Participants want to act on climate change but want more information on climate change, the impacts of climate change and the actions they can take.
  • Participants felt they were already taking some action on climate change.


  • The most prevalent themes concern the impact of a changing climate in relation to transport disruption, wildlife and ecosystems, changing weather patterns, rising sea levels, food supply and land use, and changes to energy generation.
  • Local energy and public transport were consistently popular themes in the conversations, with strong support for improvements to the public transport network, and participants favoured increased energy generation through renewables.
  • Across the groups there were strong views that improving energy efficiency of homes and sourcing power from renewable energy would both reduce emissions and create significant added benefits to local people's health, wealth and wellbeing.

Going forward

  • People want to engage but need help to go from interest to action. The low carbon choice needs to be the easy choice and the fair choice.
  • Some groups highlighted an appetite for an ambitious and holistic vision of the future.
  • People want a transparent and consistent approach to climate change across government.

5.1.13 The Climate Conversations format enabled participants to enjoy their conversation. The conversations are continuing through local groups across Scotland, with the outcomes of these discussions building on the knowledge we have compiled so far and feeding into policy developments.

Engaging on low carbon behaviours

5.1.14 People across Scotland need to understand fully the changes we need to make, and how to incorporate these changes into everyday lives, to ensure everyone is both willing and able to take the actions required for low carbon living. This will be challenging, but low carbon initiatives being taken forward aim to make the transition as seamless and straightforward as possible as well as providing a host of other benefits (referenced in other parts of this draft Plan).

5.1.15 Alongside this we need to engage with the public on the impacts of climate change, the actions we can take to support the move to a low carbon Scotland and why these actions are important.

5.1.16 Through the Greener Together [31] campaign, which engages and motivates the public on a range of actions that can be taken to tackle climate change, we found that three-quarters of those surveyed acknowledged that their behaviour could help tackle climate change and over 50% of the general public reported having a conversation on climate change in the past month.

5.1.17 A recent survey by Young Scot, found that nearly half (42%) of young people consider that they themselves have some responsibility to tackle climate change, but only a third are aware of the practical actions they could take.

5.1.18 Individuals and households account for over three-quarters of Scotland's consumption emissions (all the emissions we are responsible for as consumers of goods and services, including those we import into Scotland), and have a significant role to play, alongside the public sector and businesses, in reducing Scotland's emissions.

Consumption emissions associated with individuals and households by theme

Consumption emissions associated with individuals and households by theme

5.1.19 The four consumption emissions themes have been broken down further into 10 Key Behaviour Areas ( KBAs), showing specific behaviours where changes by individuals and households can contribute to reducing Scotland's carbon footprint.

Figure 2: 10 Key Behaviour Areas

Figure 2: 10 Key Behaviour Areas

5.1.20 There is progress across most of these areas, but some behaviours are showing little or no progress. Attitudes are changing and people are engaging with climate change issues, but to increase the pace of change we need to clearly set out the changes that lie ahead and why they are important, along with associated infrastructure and services, as part of the support we are offering to communities and households across Scotland. We plan to deepen this work following the publication of the final Climate Change Plan.

5.2 The planning system

5.2.1 Ensuring the planning system supports decarbonisation is another essential element of the Scottish Government's approach to meeting the statutory climate change targets. Because development allowed today will be around for decades or maybe hundreds of years the most important decision the planning system makes is where that development should be built.

5.2.2 The planning system is there to make the places where we live, work, and play, better. Working with communities and organisations, Planners make a plan for the area. The plan is known as a development plan. It sets out what kind of development, which could be a building or piece of infrastructure like a cycleway or road, should go where. It also says how green spaces and rivers, or other water features like lochs, could be changed or protected. Councils will make decisions on applications for planning permission based on the development plan.

5.2.3 We have national policies to help councils across Scotland make development plans for their areas. Our key national policies are:

  • Scotland's National Planning Framework [32]
  • Scottish Planning Policy [33]
  • Creating Places [34]

5.2.4 The National Planning Framework is required by law to have the objective of contributing to sustainable development, which includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions. All development plans must take account of the National Planning Framework when they are being made.

5.2.5 Our key national policies help to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from development by setting the following principles:

  • a presumption in favour of development that contributes to sustainable development
  • support for the transition to a low carbon economy
  • that we build high quality places that are resource efficient
  • that we build in town centres and on previously used land first
  • there should be a mix of development in town centres so people can live, shop, work and play there
  • travel opportunities should prioritise walking and cycling before public transport and cars
  • the development of a wide range of electricity generation from renewable sources is supported, with a plan in place for where wind farms could go
  • support for the development of heat networks in as many locations as possible
  • that there is no need to make a planning application for a range of small scale renewable energy technologies like solar panels and heat pumps, so they can be installed quickly

5.2.6 The Scottish Government has published a consultation on the future of the Scottish Planning System. Responses are invited to the proposals by 4 April 2017 [35] .


Email: Kirsty Lewin

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road