The Environment Strategy for Scotland: Reducing Scotland's International Environmental Impact - Learning from International Best Practices

This report supports the research project ‘Delivering the Environment Strategy Outcome on Scotland’s Global Footprint: Evidence Base and Policy Levers’. It summarises examples of international best practice in relation to policy levers for achieving a sustainable global footprint.

7. Findings Part 2: Best practices in reducing international environmental impacts of domestic consumption and production

7.1 Mapping policy levers for reducing Scotland’s international footprint

Reducing Scotland’s overall international footprint of the environmental impacts of domestic consumption and production will require actions across the range of domains of food, housing, mobility, goods and services. This range of domains is reflected in the calculations of Scotland’s international footprint by Global Footprint Network. A variety of policy levers are relevant to achieving this aim, all of which cannot be considered in detail in this rapid appraisal review.

Table 3 maps some of the policy options onto the consumption domains, identifying those which have the most immediate, direct links to reducing impacts on natural environments overseas. At a high level, it is not possible to identify which of the policy levers are most effective or constitute ‘best practice’.

The key to evaluations of the success or failure of any particular policy intervention is how it has been implemented, the presence or absence of supporting policies as part of a package of interventions, and the supporting or constraining contextual factors at play (which varies geographically and across cultures etc.) (Southerton et al., 2011). In general, there is evidence from the international literature that information and awareness-raising approaches on their own are not sufficient to change behaviours (Grilli & Curtis, 2021; Steg & Vlek, 2009).

There are numerous options of policy levers for addressing overseas environmental impacts. Bager et al. (2021) set out eighty-six different policy options for addressing deforestation alone. In the following sub-sections, a brief overview is provided of some of the main policy levers of relevance, rather than a comprehensive review of policy options. These are discussed under the headings of regulatory, financial, infrastructural and information-based policy levers, drawing on recommendations available in the international academic and grey literature, and examples of international best practice. The latter are set out in ‘case study’ boxes, coloured in blue.

Table 3. Overview of policy levers to reduce Scotland’s international footprint

(Note: Bold text indicates greatest direct relevance to reducing overseas environmental impact.)

Consumption Domain - Food

Policy Lever - Infrastructure
  • Encourage sustainable food processing and distribution
Policy Lever - Information
  • Ecolabelling and certification of commodities
  • Promoting eating less meat through awareness raising and education
  • Promoting food waste reduction through awareness raising and education
  • Promote seasonal foods through education
  • Capacity building interventions around sustainable sourcing of commodities and circularity
Policy Lever - Economic & Financial
  • Border adjustment taxes
  • Taxes on certain commodities
  • Sustainable commodity import guarantee
Policy Lever - Regulatory
  • Due diligence obligations
  • International/ multi-lateral agreements
  • Statutory targets (e.g. for global footprint, sustainability of imports)
  • Mandatory public procurement requirements
Others (e.g. social impact)
  • Inspecting respect of workers’ human rights
  • Promoting fair payments to farmers

Consumption Domain - Housing

Policy Lever - Infrastructure
  • Improving energy efficiency of housing stock through insulation etc.
  • Supporting development of renewables infrastructure
  • Supporting development of district heating networks
Policy Lever - Information
  • Energy performance certificates
  • Energy monitoring and feedback
Policy Lever - Economic & Financial
  • Subsidising low carbon heat technologies
  • Subsidising energy efficiency improvements
  • Incentivising construction material reuse and recycling through taxation
Policy Lever - Regulatory
  • Energy efficiency standards
  • Due diligence obligations for materials sourcing
  • Extended producer responsibilities

Consumption Domain - Mobility

Policy Lever - Infrastructure
  • Investing in active travel infrastructure
  • Investing in public transport infrastructure
  • Supporting development of electric vehicles (EV) charging infrastructure
  • Planning for 20-minute neighbour-hoods
Policy Lever - Information
  • Skills development programmes e.g bikeability
  • Engagement programmes with specific groups e.g. children and young people
  • Travel planning tools and guidance
  • Targeted awareness campaigns
Policy Lever - Economic & Financial
  • Carbon pricing/taxation
  • Congestion charging/ Low Emission Zone (LEZ)/ Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charges
  • Free or subsidised public transport
  • Subsidies on Electric vehicles (EV)
Policy Lever - Regulatory
  • Planning restrictions to direct development (densification)
  • Banning petrol and diesel vehicles
  • Ensuring ethical mining of lithium used on electric vehicles (EV)
Others (e.g. social impact)
  • Providing bikes
  • Walking buses

Consumption Domain - Goods and Services

Policy Lever - Infrastructure
  • Investments in reuse infrastructure
  • Investments in recycling infrastructure
Policy Lever - Information
  • Ecolabelling and certification of imported goods/materials
  • Capacity building interventions around sustainable sourcing of commodities and circularity
  • Repairability and durability labelling
  • Product passports
Policy Lever - Economic & Financial
  • Border adjustment taxes
  • Taxes on certain commodities
  • Sustainable commodity import guarantee
  • Funding innovation in circular design and business models
  • Supporting community reuse and repair initiatives
  • VAT reduction on repair services
Policy Lever - Regulatory
  • Due diligence obligations
  • Mandatory public procurement requirements
  • International/ multi-lateral agreements
  • Statutory targets (e.g. for global footprint, commodity use, product reuse, material consumption)
  • Extended Producer Responsibilities
  • Enforce procurement of goods made with recycled, post-consumption materials, when possible
Others (e.g. social impact)
  • Targets and monitoring (imports of certain commodities, reuse, material consumption)

7.2 Policy levers: regulatory

7.2.1 International/multi-lateral agreements

International agreements and commitments form an essential part of the global response to climate change and reversing biodiversity loss. National regulations on resource use can be linked directly to targets set out in such agreements, such as the IPCC Paris Agreement on climate change, and the associated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). Within international bodies commitments set out in international agreements can be used to frame mechanisms for strategies and roadmaps to achieve set aims, such as the National Energy Carbon Plans (NECP) of EU Member States.

At COP26 (November 2021), international agreements for reducing GHG emissions were signed. Examples are the: i) Declaration on Forests and Land Use, which refers to “promoting an inclusive rural transformation”, building resilience, enhancing rural livelihoods and recognising the multiple values of forests; and, ii) Global Methane Pledge to reduce global anthropogenic methane emissions across all sectors by at least 30% below 2020 levels by 2030 including the “abatement of agricultural emissions through technology innovation as well as incentives and partnerships with farmers”.

In its portfolio of strategies to ensure compliance with these commitments, the European Union has set targets of an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and to reduce GHG emissions to at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030 as set out in its 2030 Climate Target Plan (European Commission, 2021a). These strategies are supported by legal instruments in the EU Fit for 55 package such as the European Union Climate Law (European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, 2020).

The strengthening of multi-lateral commitments and partnerships to address sustainability in international trade and supply chains features in the recommendations of bodies such as the WWF and RSPB (2020), the World Economic Forum (2020), the UK Global Resource Initiative (2020), and other stakeholders (Bager et al., 2021). The Dasgupta review on the Economics of Biodiversity (Dasgupta, 2021) highlights agreements in relation to deforestation, such as the New York Declaration on Forests (halving deforestation by 2020 and ending it by 2030) and the Amsterdam Declaration (aiming for deforestation-free supply chains by 2020).

More recently, in the Glasgow Leader’s Declaration on Forest and Land Use (at COP26 in Glasgow, November 2021), 140 leaders committed to halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030. However, thus far, international agreements and international environmental law have been ineffective in halting global deforestation (Dasgupta, 2021; Henn, 2021). Dasgupta (2021) provides an example of deforestation in Brazil, noting that most of the countries bearing the greatest responsibility for driving deforestation there, and the resultant loss of biodiversity, are signatories to one or both of the New York or Amsterdam Declarations. Henn (2021) points to the failure of previous multilateral efforts as leading to an increased drive for the adoption of unilateral approaches by national and supranational organisations such as the EU.

Deforestation is an example of an issue about which it is important that the Scottish Government and UK Government continue to support and drive action through multi-lateral partnerships and commitments, but where there is a growing need to address the problem through complementary unilateral action and domestic policy.

Case study

Major case of illegal waste exports from the United Kingdom to Poland in early 2018

Interpol note that ‘Cooperation agreements define the legal basis for working with our partners’. They describe how the provisions in each agreement are “specific to the scope of cooperation established; this can include information exchange, mutual investigative projects, database access, reciprocal representation or means of technical assistance.” These types of agreements provide the basis of tackling crimes that cross borders of which environmental crime is increasingly significant.

Poland had experience in tackling waste fires, at a rate of approximately 10 every year; the occurrence of c.80 illegal fires in early 2018 represented an upward trend. The growing market of plastic waste recovery within Europe provides significant opportunities for illegal enterprises, including criminal organizations, to thrive due to the high financial value of this business sector.

A series of waste fires taking place in Poland in the first trimester of 2018 sounded the alarm regarding the illegal disposal of large quantities of imported waste, especially from the United Kingdom. An investigation by British authorities revealed that approximately 2,600 tonnes of waste were illegally sent from the United Kingdom to an illegal dump site in Poland. “This was mainly baled household waste but misdescribed as green list plastic, thus avoiding notification. The unloaded waste remained at site whilst efforts were made to repatriate and investigate but the site was subject of a significant fire in May 2018. This was one of some 80 waste fires in Poland in 2018 most of which are suspected to have been deliberate in an effort to destroy evidence.” The illegal waste mostly composed of non-segregated plastics from the United Kingdom households and supermarkets. The investigation also disclosed the highly organized nature of this criminal activity, with the collaboration of members of five organised crime groups and other similar offenses involving deposit sites in Poland found in 2017 and 2018.

Open source data highlighted high criminal proceeds generated in this case, with millions of Euros paid to the owners of the illegal landfills. The owners of a landfill in Zgierz, central Poland, were allegedly paid €1.4 million to €2.8 million ($1.55 million to $3.1 million) to incinerate the illegally disposed waste. The repercussions of this case had significance for public health and environmental security as waste fires are associated with the release of toxic emissions into the atmosphere. Public revenues were also affected by the costs of insuring the fire fighting service. This case raises concerns regarding the proliferation of plastic waste-related crimes in Europe as well as about the involvement of organised crime groups in such offences.

Improving the sustainability of supply chains is essential in tackling the international impacts of domestic consumption and production on the climate and biodiversity. Forest-risk commodities (i.e. goods and materials whose production contributes to tropical deforestation) are an example over which there are concerns with respect to adverse impacts accruing outwith Scotland.

The Global Resource Initiative (2020) note that “agricultural and forestry supply chains are at the core of the transformation required and the UK’s own import and consumption of seven key commodities – beef and leather, cocoa, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber, soya and timber - is part of the global demand for these commodities.” The WWF and RSPB (2020) assessed the overseas land footprint required to supply the UK’s demand for seven common forest-risk commodities: cocoa; soy; palm oil; beef and leather; timber; pulp and paper; and rubber. They found that this footprint (which equates to 88% of the land area of the UK) is growing, and that 28% of the overseas land footprint falls within high or very high-risk countries (with assignment of the level of risk based upon indicators of deforestation and labour rights). It is argued that voluntary commitments to address the use of forest-risk commodities in supply chains have not resulted in progress at the scale necessary to address the problem (McCormack et al., 2021; Global Canopy, 2022).

7.2.2 Mandatory due diligence obligations

The establishment of due diligence obligations on businesses is one of the primary policy interventions recommended in the literature. Bodies such as the UK Government’s Global Resource Initiative Taskforce (Global Resource Initiative, 2020), conservation charities (WWF & RSPB, 2020), academics and other stakeholders (Partiti, 2022; Bager et al., 2021) have advocated mandatory due diligence requirements on business and financial institutions to ensure they mitigate environmental impacts through their supply chains and investments, and publicly report those actions. The Dasgupta review on the economics of biodiversity (Dasgupta, 2020) supports such actions, with an emphasis on transparency and embedding environmental considerations across the entirety of supply chains.

In light of this increasing pressure, the UK Government included provisions for due diligence obligations for forest-risk commodities within the Environment Act 2021. These provisions will aim to prevent large businesses importing illegally produced forest-risk commodities through legal restrictions, requirements to undertake due diligence exercises on their supply chains, and mandatory annual reporting. A consultation on the implementation of the provisions, which will require to be enacted through secondary legislation, was completed in March 2022 (DEFRA, 2022). As this is a new policy approach, in the UK and the EU, there is a lack of existing international evidence of best practice on which to draw. Research commissioned by WWF identified several critical factors that will determine the effectiveness of UK due diligence obligations (McCormack et al., 2021). These include:

  • The thresholds at which businesses are included in the scope of the legislation (which the report proposed should be based on turnover and the volume of forest-risk commodities);
  • The scope of forest risk commodities included (arguing for the inclusion of beef and leather, cocoa, coffee, rubber, maize, palm oil and soy, and all products in which these are used), and the breadth of commodities to be prioritised. [Note: This is particularly important if the UK Government proposal for a phased approach is implemented, UK Government, 2021][2]
  • Enforcement of the obligations, including the powers and competency of the authority responsible for enforcement, the scale of the fines, and the sanctions they can apply.

The UK due diligence obligations have been criticised for including only deforestation and land conversion that is illegal according to the local laws of the producer country. It is argued that this leaves a large proportion of deforestation in the tropics outwith the scope of the legislation, and provides a perverse incentive to producer countries to scale back protections for forest ecosystems (Jennings et al., 2021; dos Reis et al., 2021). In comparison, proposals by the EU adopt a broader approach, stating that products may only be placed on, or exported from, the European market if they are ‘deforestation-free’ (i.e. not produced as a result of deforestation) and have been produced according to the laws of the producer country (European Commission, 2021b). WWF’s research (McCormack et al., 2021) urges businesses to address all aspects of deforestation and land conversion, noting that such an approach may be less complex to implement.

Robust certification schemes (see ‘Certification and ecolabelling’ section) could help support businesses to undertake due diligence. However, overreliance on certification in the full tracing of supply chains has risks due to the limitations of existing certification schemes (Wood et al., 2021), and barriers to full traceability. In both cases, improvements in data and data systems are needed (Wood et al., 2021).

Further considerations on the future implementation of due diligence obligations include compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, and whether producer countries might claim that such regulation constitutes an unfair obstacle to trade (Henn, 2021; Sarmiento & Oeschger, 2022). There are also concerns about the potential burden placed on producers that could result from a proliferation of regional and domestic deforestation legislation, with varying definitions of deforestation and requirements for reporting, and the risk of requirements being shifted on to farmers rather than equally distributed across value chains (Sarmiento & Oeschger, 2022). Authors have called for more meaningful involvement of stakeholders from the Global South in the politics of due diligence to increase the legitimacy of such demand-side regulatory actions by administrations in the Global North (Schilling-Vacaflor & Lenschow, 2021).

In the UK, the implementation of due diligence obligations falls within the reserved powers of the UK Government. However, the Scottish Government could seek to influence the development of due diligence regulations, or future reviews of regulations, with a view to increasing alignment of the UK approach to that of the EU. It could seek opportunities to move beyond a legally-based approach to defining forest-risk commodities, and ensure that requirements apply to the range of businesses which place goods and products using forest-risk commodities on the Scottish and UK markets.

7.2.3 Statutory targets and monitoring frameworks

Statutory targets and monitoring frameworks are means of pushing and measuring actions on international environmental impacts of domestic production and consumption in the UK. For example, the Global Resource Initiative (2020:22) called for the UK (central government and the devolved administrations) to adopt a legally binding target to halve the UK’s global footprint by 2030, proposing a sub-target of ending deforestation from UK commodity supply chains by no later than 2023. They argue that this “would provide the necessary signal for a shift in behaviour, acting as a legislative ‘cliff edge’ to propel business, finance and government to make the necessary changes to purchasing and investment strategies within their organisations to a clear future deadline” (Global Resource Initiative, 2020: 22). As well as overarching targets and indicators, WWF and RSPB (2020) also support the adoption of commodity-specific targets for e.g. soy, cocoa, timber, and pulp and paper, as well as continued implementation of the national statement on palm oil.

Amongst the devolved administrations Wales has, amongst its national wellbeing indicators, an established global footprint indicator, of which a case study box follows.

Case study

Welsh global footprint national indicator

The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 sets out a broad range of goals for social, economic and environmental sustainability to support wellbeing, with a set of national wellbeing indicators put in place to monitor progress. One of these goals is for a ‘globally responsible Wales’, which includes a milestone target for Wales to ‘use only its fair share of the world’s resources by 2050’. Progress towards this milestone is monitored by a global footprint indicator representing the ecological footprint of the country in Mgha (million global hectares).

7.2.4 Mandatory public procurement requirements

A domestic regulatory policy lever commonly recommended as an intervention in various topics relates to the use of environmental criteria in public procurement decisions (Bager et al., 2021; World Economic Forum, 2020). More sustainable (green) public procurement has the potential to contribute towards reducing environmental footprints in several ways. Firstly, changes in public procurement can directly impact on overall consumption because of the large volumes of food, goods and services that are purchased by public sector organisations (including public agency offices, hospitals, schools and prisons). Secondly, it is argued that, through green public procurement, public bodies can lead by example, provide price stability, and help expand markets and leverage finance for more sustainable products (Lundberg et al., 2016; Pouikli, 2021).

Green public procurement features strongly in EU Green Deal policies as a route to securing environmental objectives in relation to supply chains and the circular economy transition (Pouikli, 2021). Legal frameworks for achieving socially responsible public procurement are reflected in EU Directives (European Commission, 2021c). However, the effectiveness of public procurement measures relies in part on robust and transparent systems for mandatory reporting and monitoring of compliance (WWF & RSPB, 2020).

Although green public procurement is currently receiving attention as an environmental policy instrument, some authors warn of its complexity and the difficulty of predicting its impacts on the environmental objectives it seeks to support (Lundberg et al., 2016).

Despite these caveats, green public procurement represents a policy instrument with potential to influence supply chains that sit outwith the domain of international trade (an issue reserved to the UK Government). It can be used to overcome barriers to uptake of some practices, including influencing food services, which can form part of a balanced approach to encouraging the uptake of local produce, including those linked to dietary change (Schwarz et al., 2022). It can also contribute to the provision of stable markets and demonstrate leadership. One example is the ’Fair trade food for Munich’s schools (Germany)’ identified in the EU guide to taking account of social considerations in public procurement (European Commission, 2021c). In this example, 5% of the award criteria for a contract to provide meals to 490,000 school children had to was reserved for social and environmental aspects, such as raw materials certified through Fairtrade International, the World Fairtrade Organisation, or equivalent.

Exploring such considerations in public procurement is an area within which there is significant scope for The Scottish Government to act. This would be consistent with UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 (‘Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’) which calls on governments to promote the use of public procurement practices to further the sustainable development agenda (Target 12.7).

7.3 Policy levers: economic

7.3.1 Taxation

Dasgupta (2021) makes a case for the use of taxation to correct (to an extent) for externalities, such as environmental degradation, which would not otherwise be reflected in market prices. The intention is to create a more level playing field in which goods and services produced to lower environmental or social standards do not have an undue price advantage over more sustainable goods and services. Border adjustment taxes are an example of this type of policy lever. These are imposed based on where goods and services are consumed, resulting in higher tariffs on imports that do not conform to the emissions standards of the country in which they are consumed. However, Dasgupta (2021) points out there are limitations to this approach, the effectiveness of which depends on it being widely applied and well designed.

EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM): The CBAM was recently approved (13 December 2022), by the European Parliament as a tool designed to set prices to carbon emissions generated during the production of goods imported into the EU. This mechanism is intended to phase out the current EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) which provided the allocation of free allowances. The prices will be set through weekly updated ETS allowances and the final cost to be paid within the EU will consider if the importer has already paid any similar carbon tax elsewhere to avoid double taxation. The initial phase is expected to enter into force on 1st October 2023 and, initially, will only cover selected carbon intensive industries (cement, iron and steel, aluminium, fertilisers, electricity and hydrogen) (European Commission 2021b).

Carbon taxes have also been widely advocated as a way to incorporate environmental costs into market prices (Stiglitz et al., 2017; World Economic Forum, 2020; Mildenberger et al., 2022). Such taxes have been implemented in many countries, including Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden (see case study box), Norway, Switzerland and Canada. One of the barriers to adoption of carbon taxes has, been public acceptance, with concerns expressed about the regressive nature of such taxes that impose a disproportionate burden on the less well off (Mildenberger et al., 2022; Prasad, 2022). Decisions over how carbon tax revenues are directed (whether through e.g. public spending, tax cuts) may influence public attitudes, however recent research indicates that channelling revenues back to citizens via rebates or ‘dividends’ is not automatically associated with greater acceptance (Mildenberger et al., 2022). Other central considerations in the implementation of carbon taxes include the rates of taxation applied and the existence of exemptions (particularly regarding high-emitting sectors holding political influence). The carbon price necessary to support the achievement of the Paris Agreement climate targets has been estimated at US $50-100 per ton of CO2 by 2030 (Stiglitz et al., 2017).

Case study

Policy lessons from Sweden’s carbon tax

When seeking to reduce emissions, the use of a carbon tax can cut across sectors such as food, housing, mobility, goods and services. However, such a tax can apply a strain on an economy and cause carbon leakage.

Sweden introduced a carbon tax in 1991 during the ‘Tax reform of the century’ (Agell et al., 1996) in in exchange for reductions in energy and labour taxes,[3] starting small, and growing over time. Several principles informed the tax’s design: revenue neutrality, no earmarking, incrementalism, polluter pays, carbon leakage, and a double dividend of gains in environmental terms and in economic efficiency (Ewald et al., 2020). These guided how different sectors would be targeted with the tax and how to guard against carbon leakage while maintaining revenue neutrality, and so not increasing the total of taxes collected by government.[4]

It is now one of the highest tax rates on carbon in the world: US$130/tCO2e (World Bank, 2023). The strategy behind the tax primarily targeted fossil fuels, excluding biomass, waste products, and some energy-intensive industries. Although it is difficult to isolate the effects of the tax, scholars argue that there has been a notable impact on Sweden’s emissions, specifically in district heating, leading to a ‘fuel switch’ to biomass.

The decoupling of CO2 from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has exaggerated the estimates of reductions in emissions as it does not account for carbon leakage and CO2 embedded in imports. In coming years, Sweden’s highest emitting sectors (i.e. industry and transportation) will be a challenge to achieving its goals of net zero GHG emissions.

Earmarking refers to dedicating certain revenues for a specific purpose. Although Swedish policy has been for no-earmarking, elements of the national budget are customarily used for sustainability type projects such as improved public transport and the promotion of biofuels (Åkerfeldt & Hammar, 2015). Incrementalism of the tax was set out in its aim to ‘start small but keep growing’ with a final goal of a high tax across all sectors.[5]

The polluter pays principle informed the tax through analyses of true costs, which can be social or environmental costs. Although these are difficult to determine, they informed the design of the tax (Vaughan & Ardila, 1993; Young & Stokke, 2020).

Carbon leakage refers to when a company tries to avoid a CO2 tax by moving some production or its purchases to a location with less stringent laws. Leakage is such a common issue (Ferguson & Sanctuary, 2014; Næss-Schmidt et al., 2012) that the European Commission (2011) published a guidance document to help address its avoidance. Sweden’s aim to avoid leakage led to protections for critical industries: those vulnerable to market risk by either product type (such as agriculture or forestry) or energy intensity (such as electricity or steel production). As Sweden participates in the EU ETS (Europe’s Emissions Trading System) it also sought to protect its industries from double taxation.

Although a controversial concept (Bohm, 1997; Goulder, 1995; Oates, 1995), double dividend argues that if taxes are ‘a necessary evil’ then governments should be able to raise revenues while also protecting the environment.

With this general principle and the adjustments and protections for some Swedish industries, there has been cross-partisan agreement on the tax since 1991 even when political power shifted.

All of these factors influenced the design of Sweden’s carbon tax levels: one for generalized fossil fuel use and another for more energy-intensive industries. However, in Sweden’s case, the approach has been that polluters should pay, but not too much, recognizing that requiring polluters to pay for the full costs of their activities is an ideal that has yet to be economically and environmentally realized.

Key historical moments. In 1991, the key changes in Swedish tax law were: i) both of the marginal income tax and energy tax rates were cut by 50%; ii) the new CO2 tax had two main levels of a general and a lower level for critical industries; iii) the tax would increase over time; iv) other compensatory items such as a reduced labour tax, a sulfur and nitrous oxide tax, a Value Added Tax (VAT) on energy, state aid for fossil-free electricity production, and various tax shelters were eliminated (Åkerfeldt, 2011; Scharin & Wallström, 2018).

From 2000 to 2004, in a ‘green tax reform’, Sweden tightened polluter taxation with CO2, energy, diesel, and electricity taxes increasing while social benefits such as wage deductions were expanded, employee contributions to social security reduced, and a ‘green adult education initiative’ introduced to reskill displaced workers (Hoerner & Bosquet, 2001). In 2018, Sweden achieved its goal of a unified general tax in which the industry and general CO2 tax levels equalized. However, some fossil fuels for non-heating purposes were still exempt and a CO2 tax for Swedish cogeneration plants within the EU ETS remained (Scharin & Wallström, 2018).

Some evidence and effects. Although direct causes are difficult to identify, scholars argue that the tax has had a beneficial effect. Sweden’s claim has been that during the process of decoupling CO2 from GDP, its economy has grown and emissions declined (Åkerfeldt, 2017, p. 15). However, this claim is from a production rather than a consumption perspective of emissions, overlooking carbon leakage. A consumptive view of CO2 embedded in Sweden’s imports finds that Sweden’s CO2 reductions are partly due to domestic transportation (Jiborn et al., 2018). Another study finds that Sweden’s 2008 emissions were 17% higher than reported.

District heating. Arguably the most successful effect of the tax is the ‘fuel switch’ in the district heating sector. As district heating has significant efficiencies at scale, reductions in this area can be notable (Persson & Werner, 2011). Since the 1990s, biomass and waste incineration have almost replaced the use of fossil fuels in Sweden’s district heating (Ericsson & Werner, 2016). Most dramatic is the change in residential heating (Scharin & Wallström, 2018, p. 20), of which, in 2015, district heat supplied 92% of Swedish apartments (2015).

Industrial sector emissions. Analyses of the industrial sector (Ackva & Hoppe, 2018, p. 3) record growth in less energy-intensive industries and a decrease in combustion emissions. However, it is not clear how the tax influenced these changes (Ackva & Hoppe, 2018). Iron and steel production dominates Sweden’s industrial emissions (SEA, 2018), which increased by 10% between 1990 and 2014 (Ackva & Hoppe, 2018). Scholars argue that between 1991 to 2004 the different elements affecting emissions in the industrial sector are an effect of the tax (Brannlund et al., 2014; Pardo Martínez & Silveira, 2013). Over several decades, there has been an increase in the proportion of electricity and biomass in the composition of energy in the industrial sector, and an overall decline in fossil fuel use.

Transportation. Although most of the transportation sector (road, rail, aviation, and shipping) has been levied the full tax (Scharin & Wallström, 2018), it has been difficult to decarbonize. In 2018, domestic transport accounted for about a quarter of Sweden’s total energy use (SEA, 2018) and about a third of its GHG emissions (Scharin & Wallström, 2018). It took nearly 20 years before a decline in emissions from transportation was observed (Scharin & Wallström, 2018, p. 20). However, the tax was incremental, and the Swedish population increased over that time period. Andersson (2017) argues that between 2000 and 2005, emissions from transport fell by about 12.5% and that three-quarters of this reduction (9.4%) was due to the tax. Motor fuels remain a challenge for Sweden (Åkerfeldt & Hammar, 2015), about which there are continuing efforts to promote public transport, more active travel, zero-emission vehicles, solar cell and energy storage technologies.

Total energy supply. Since the 1970s, Sweden’s nuclear and biomass production has grown accompanied by a decline in fossil fuels (which more than halved between 1970 to 2015). By 2015 the growth in nuclear power had stabilized, but by then Sweden was already no longer primarily dependant on fossil fuels. Although hard to link cause and effect with accuracy, these shifts are consistent with the expectations of the tax.

Summary. Lessons from Sweden’s carbon tax should consider Sweden’s history and socio-political dynamics, such as its strong welfare state and low levels of socio-economic inequality. Such dynamics can be seen as the ground upon which a carbon tax operates and may, for example, ameliorate regressive elements of the tax. Although this tax has had successes, it has taken several decades for them to be achieved, and other countries may need to take, if politically feasible, a more aggressive approach. Although Sweden has experienced some decoupling, it has also experienced carbon leakage and will be challenged to meet its goals of net zero, especially in its industrial and transportation sectors.

Commodity taxes can be applied to specific commodities associated with environmental impacts outwith Scotland. Such taxes apply to all relevant products, whether produced domestically or overseas, and whether or not they comply with sustainability criteria. There has been considerable interest in the use of commodity taxes in public health promotion (e.g. on sugar-sweetened beverages, fast food) (Powell et al., 2013; Wright et al., 2017). With respect to reducing global environmental footprints, the potential for taxing meat products in particular has been an issue of interest and debate. Reducing the consumption of meat, particularly red meat, in high income countries has an important role to play in achieving a more sustainable environmental footprint (Dasgupta, 2021; Akenji et al., 2021). Evidence suggests there is a need to tackle the upwards trend globally in the land required for meat production (Machovina et al., 2015).

Meat taxes, such as levying higher rates of VAT on more emission-intensive meat products, could be used to influence consumer demand for meat. This approach has been discussed in several countries but not yet implemented in any[6] (Kwasny et al., 2022; Caro et al., 2017; Pinto, 2021). One of the main challenges to such a tax relates to the potential level of public unacceptability of such a measure, with a reluctance of politicians and NGOs to advocate for demand-side interventions on the politically contentious issue of meat consumption (Laestadius et al., 2014). Government intervention in dietary choice (from a classical liberalist point of view), such as through a meat tax, poses ‘unique complexities’ over other commodity taxes because of ingrained cultural meanings around meat consumption and production, and differing values around animal welfare, environmental issues and freedom of choice (Simmonds & Vallgårda, 2021). As with other environmental taxes, concerns have been raised about regressive effects on lower income groups, although these could be mitigated through redistribution of tax revenues (Säll, 2018; Pinto, 2021).

7.3.2 Sustainable commodity import guarantees

Recommendations in the literature around financial policy levers include encouraging more sustainable supply chains through the uses of taxes and incentives. Amongst the recommendations of the UK Global Resource Initiative (2020) is the adoption of sustainable commodity import guarantees.

Sustainable commodity import guarantees, such as border adjustment taxes, aim to address price differences between sustainable and unsustainable products. However, instead of disincentivising unsustainable options they aim to incentivise more sustainable imports. Therefore, they seek to “incentivise sustainable agricultural and forestry commodity imports over conventionally sourced commodities” (Global Resource Initiative, 2020). Such guarantees act to reduce the financial risks associated with trade finance for sustainable imports, resulting in cheaper (and greater value of) finance being available to importers of sustainable products, incentivising banks to support smaller or ‘less well rated’ companies.

The operation of sustainable commodity import guarantees would require agreement on qualifying criteria. The Global Resource Initiative note that these could build on “existing sustainability certification regimes and best practices for demonstrating sustainable commodity sourcing (avoiding deforestation and land conversion).” They also identify qualifying criteria as including: i) verifiably sustainable commodities; ii) commodities that the UK does not already produce and about which there is encouragement to switch from those from conventional to sustainable sources. One aspect of these guarantees is that they should be cost neutral to governments and not require direct subsidies, as per the UK Export Finance guarantees.

Sustainable commodity import guarantees is an example of the new forms of green finance which are of interest for policymakers and academics (Akomea-Frimpong et al., 2021; Debrah et al., 2022).

7.4 Policy levers: Infrastructure-based

7.4.1 Decommissioning infrastructure of energy assets

Following the expansion of oil and gas production from the UK Continental Shelf since the 1970s (Scottish Enterprise, 2016) the lifecycle of oil rigs, vessels and other fossil fuel-related assets is moving towards programmes of decommissioning. There is a legal obligation to decommission structures in a way that protects the environment. This is also true of renewable energy structures, such as wind turbines. Given that wind turbines have a life expectancy of between 20 and 25 years (Adedipe & Shafiee, 2021), it is expected that by 2030 over 1,900 such structures will need to be decommissioned (Wood 2021). The decommissioning of existing fossil fuel energy assets represents an opportunity, already being pursued in Scotland, of reducing the consumption of raw materials needed for the construction of renewable energy assets, and wind turbines in particular.

Case Study

Ardersier Port Transformation (Ardersier Port Authority, 2021)

Ardersier, Scotland’s largest brownfield port, was bought in 2021 to be transformed into Europe’s first circular Energy Transition Facility. Through a circular economy approach, the goal is to decommission existing fossil-fuelled energy assets (i.e. oil rigs and vessels) to support the construction of wind turbines for an expanding, dispersed, network of renewable energy infrastructure (see Figure 6). The initial investment plan includes a £20 million capital dredging programme which will re-open the port.

Through to 2026, the plan is to provide:

  • An oil rig decommissioning facility;
  • A £300 million green steel plant;
  • A concrete production facility using the sand dredged from the seafloor within the port, and by products from the steel plant and waste facility;
  • A floating hub for manufacturing concrete floating wind foundations.

The objective of the project is to develop the largest wind foundation fabrication, manufacturing and assembly facility in the UK. To date, the project has reached agreement to provide exclusive access to BW Ideol for the manufacture of floating wind foundations.

Figure 6. Ardersier Port Project (Source: BW Ideol

The Ardersier project is not the only one in Scotland with similar objectives. The Decommissioning project for Lerwick aims to recycle over 11,500 tonnes of subsea equipment from BP’s Schiehallion and Loyal oil fields west of the Shetland Islands.

These projects represent an opportunity for Scotland to reduce its consumption of raw materials needed for the construction of wind turbines, in particular of steel components. It should reduce the impact of the use of steel in Scotland; increase its capacity to produce renewable energy, and support the reduction of waste produced by the decommissioning of oil rigs.

7.4.2 Reuse through circular economy

A route to reducing international impacts associated with imported materials, goods and services is increasing circularity in Scotland’s consumption and production activities. This means moving from a ‘take, make and dispose’ linear economic model, to a circular economy, in which resource inputs and waste outputs are reduced by keeping materials circulating in the system.

Scotland’s commitment to transitioning to a circular economy is set out in Scotland’s circular economy strategy. The greatest positive environmental impacts from becoming more circular can be achieved through focusing action towards activities that create short loops in the system and which sit at the top of the waste hierarchy, namely reducing consumption and increasing reuse and repair of items (Reike et al., 2018; Kirchherr et al., 2017). Whilst the provision of recycling infrastructure is a well-established element of waste policy in many countries, far less policy focus has been directed towards reuse infrastructure.

Some countries and regions are taking more ambitious approaches to reuse. These include the establishment of statutory reuse centres (see case study of Greece below), and the central establishment of networks of formally recognised and accredited reuse centres delivered through social enterprises (see example of Flanders’ reuse network below).

Case study

Statutory reuse centres in Greek municipalities[7] (European Environment Agency, 2022)

Greece’s Waste Framework Law (4819/2021) has committed to the establishment of mandatory reuse centres by 2024. Municipalities with more than 20,000 residents, along with regional waste management bodies in collaboration with the smaller municipalities, will be required to set up reuse centres to collect used items including furniture, waste electrical and electronic equipment, bicycles, toys etc.

Case study

Flemish Reuse Network (Delanoeije & Bachus, 2020)

The Belgian federal region of Flanders has a reuse network comprising a network of accredited reuse centres which operate as non-profit social enterprises, together with private sector second-hand shops. The reuse centres provide points for the collection of used items and purchase of second-hand items, alongside offering free collections of donations from homes. The network of reuse centres was established in 1994 by the Flemish waste agency with the aim of creating social benefits through the employment of individuals experiencing significant barriers to employment, such as those in vulnerable groups and those in long-term unemployment.

In 2018, the whole network consisted of 145 outlets, which provided employment to more than 10,000 employees. More than 5,000 of those were employed by the non-profit social enterprise reuse centres. The network of accredited reuse centres is subsidised by the Flemish Government, with approximately 40% of their revenue from subsidies with most of the remaining 60% generated from their own activities. Their activities are also supported by a lower rate of VAT for accredited reuse centres (6% instead of 21%). The reuse network has a formally recognised role in the delivery of Flemish waste policy, and is central to the delivery of Flanders’ reuse targets.

Reuse infrastructure includes facilities for the deposit of items and the purchase of used goods. Developing the market for reused items requires innovation in the retail of second-hand goods, including attention to the shopping experience and tailoring to different market segments. Supporting the clustering of reuse outlets offers potential (e.g. see case study: circular shopping centres), which can also be a focus for social innovation (e.g. see case study: social innovation recycling). Reuse infrastructure can also include online shopping options (e.g. online shops operated by reuse centres).

The EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles (European Commission, 2022) sets out to ensure that by 2030 textile products placed on the EU market are long-lived and recyclable, to a great extent made of recycled fibres. It is linked to the EU Sustainable Products Regulation. At present textile value chains are recognised as being long, globalised and diverse, with less than 1% of textiles recycled into new textiles. The Strategy recognises that “most of the pressure and impact linked to clothing, footwear and household textiles in Europe occur in other regions of the world, where the majority of production takes place.” It notes that “the presence of substances of concern hampers future high quality recycling and pollutes water and soil, and textile waste collection rates and recycling capacities are low to medium in the EU.”

The EU Strategy also proposes a framework to create conditions and incentives to boost competitiveness, sustainability and resilience of the EU textile sector, including addressing its environmental and social impacts. Its proposals include setting targets to significantly increase reuse and recycling efforts as well as green public procurement in the EU, support and encourage sustainable production, sustainable lifestyles, tackle the presence of substances of concern, improve textile waste collection and recycling in the Member States, and building human capacity with new skills.

Case Study

Circular shopping centres (European Commission, 2019)

The EU Circular Economy Stakeholder platform highlights a number of examples of best practice which focus on large scale retail of second-hand items or clustering of smaller outlets specialising in reused, refurbished and recycled items within dedicated shopping villages or centres. The business models underpinning these ventures vary, such as the private sector led Yuman Village in Brussels, and the local government operated 48er-Tandler reuse centre in Vienna, ReTuna Återbruksgalleria (promoted as the ‘world’s first recycling mall’) in Eskilstuna, Sweden.

Common elements of these initiatives include the incorporation of central collection points for the centres, offering one-stop-shops for retail needs across a range of product types, attention to customer experience and attractive visual merchandising of reused items.

7.5 Policy Levers: information-based

7.5.1 Certifications and ecolabelling

The first eco-label is credited as being the Blue Angel, Launched by the West German government in 1978, which is described as a market-based, voluntary tool of environmental policy (Blue Angel, 2023). Their use has expanded with many national and international labels emerging. These labels can be categorised into two general areas depending on their origins. One set are developed and accredited by governments or regions (e.g. EU eco-label or Nordic Swan), and others are by private or NGO sectors (e.g. Fair Trade, Rain Forest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Council, Bioland). In recent years, the Fairtrade ecolabel has started to expand towards the inclusion of labour rights (fair wages, unionization), protection of the environment, gender equality and ensuring access to international markets by farmers.

Both sets of certifications tend be voluntary, but those relating to organic status are covered by legislation and strict requirements[8].

The Ecolabel Index identifies at least 456 ecolabels from 199 countries across 25 sectors. While most ecolabels are designed to appeal to the consumer in relation to their environmental impact (Grankvist & Biel, 2007), some are also focused on the social aspects underlying the production of products. For example, the Fairtrade label was originally designed to support local coffee producers from Mexico to access international markets as a way of improving their living conditions (Redfern & Snedker, 2002). The purpose was not to improve the environmental impacts of coffee production, instead it was about promoting greater economic return for a commodity.

Ecolabels have been criticized, mainly in relation to the possibility of their use for corporate marketing and greenwashing (De Chiara, 2016) and a lack of regulation regarding the setting of standards (see Nehf, 2018). Typically, ecolabelling requires some form of supporting evidence or information. Tools for the assessment of environmental and social impacts of products and processes are widely used. Their origins and mode of operation vary. One example of the use of tools for assessing environmental, economic and social sustainability of farms was undertaken by the EU H2020 UNISECO project on sustainable transitions to agroecology. These tools included the Cool Farm Tool (a GHG inventory, water footprint and biodiversity assessment tool), and the SMART Farm Tool (Sustainability Monitoring and Assessment RouTine), a multidimensional sustainability assessment tool). Each tool is used to provide quantitative assessments of the impacts of the farm practices and systems, either at farm or business levels.

The Cool Farm Tool is used to assess on-farm characteristics such as biodiversity, water use and GHG emissions, and environmental impacts of land management practices. It comprises a generic set of empirical models of Tier 1, Tier 2, and simple Tier 3 approaches to estimate full farm-gate product emissions (IPCC, 1997), and a biodiversity module based on the Gaia biodiversity yardstick (CLM, 2019). It is one element of the Cool Farm Alliance, membership of which includes numerous agri-food businesses, including those which are multi-national in operation and which use the Tool as part of the assessments of the environmental footprint of products they produce or handle.

The SMART Tool is based on the guidelines for the Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture Systems (SAFA) from the FAO and covers a wide range of topics with over 300 indicators. These include environmental integrity, economic resilience, social well-being and good governance (Landert et al., 2019). It enables account to be taken of environmental impacts of sourcing materials (e.g. origin of mined fertiliser, fuel, employment rights, child labour, land tenure). Reporting on the application of the SMART Tool, Curran et al. (2020) notes the insights such a tool provides to the strengths and weaknesses of the contributions of the Swiss organic sector to sustainability compared to the most relevant official statistics.

Landert et al. (2020) report on the application of these tools in 13 countries across Europe. They found that, in the long-term, agro-ecological farming systems and practices are characterised by higher assessments of sustainability, including higher profitability due to premia paid by consumers and shorter supply chains, supporting findings of other studies (e.g. Hatt et al., 2016). From the same study, Albanito et al. (2021) note the types of topics for which the quality of background information is weak (e.g. characteristics of inputs with international footprints). From the project findings, Schwarz et al. (2022) found that farmers are willing to transition towards agroecology but not to operate under the limitations of organic certification. Thus, much of the aims of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy (European Commission, 2020b) are achieved in a more flexible and contextually sensitive way than certification would permit (Miller et al., 2022).

Miller et al. (2022) also observe that “Overall, many of the social and environmental benefits can be realised if agricultural systems adopt wide-ranging innovations, from the plot to the food systems level. However, the total size of domestic food systems is central to avoid a shift of environmental pressure to regions beyond the EU.” Tools such as SMART can contribute to assessing and monitoring agricultural systems, and can be used to provide evidence in support of Sustainability label that takes account of environmental, economic and social factors.

Miller et al. (2021) provide findings of an analysis of the application of the Cool Farm Tool and SMART to a farm system and lowland farm in eastern Scotland, in storymap format. They show the relative level of performance of a study farm according to criteria of social-wellbeing, good governance environmental integrity and economic resilience. These take account of environmental factors (e.g. materials and energy) and social conditions (e.g. fair trading practices, equity, labour rights) of internationally sourced inputs. The illustration shows how use of the modelling tools enable scenarios of alternative practices to be evaluated with respect to the overall level of sustainability of individual farms, as summarised by Albanito et al. (2021).

Research in Spain and Scotland (Akaichi et al., 2020) reports on the preferences and willingness of consumers to pay for nutrition labels, and effects of labels such as organic, local and low GHG emissions. Results showed a willingness to pay premiums for certain combinations of food attributes and labels, and in the UK demand for beef mince with low fat content can be increased if also labelled as organic or low in GHG emissions.

As part of its Circular Economy Framework, the EU is updating the EU Ecolabel, a voluntary label for products that fulfil a minimum set of standards. This update also has an objective of promoting sustainable production and consumption, by providing consumers with alternatives to conventional products that are more friendly to the environment (European Commission, 2019b). While ecolabels seek to empower consumers in making environmentally conscious decisions, they appear to be limited in providing information about the labour and social conditions under which products were produced. Where such schemes are voluntary they also lack credible enforcement procedures.

Case Study

Nordic Swan Ecolabel

The Nordic Swan Ecolabel, established in 1989, helps consumers, companies and other organisations to purchase in an environmentally conscious manner. It encourages the development of products and services that have less of an impact on the environment and climate than similar products on the market.

The Nordic Swan Ecolabel takes into account the environmental impact of goods and services during their entire life cycle, from raw materials to waste products. It places strict requirements on climate and environmental impact, and function and quality. The label serves as a consumer-policy tool for the environment and complements other environment-policy instruments. It is an instrument for achieving the goals of the Nordic countries for sustainable consumption and production, as outlined in the Nordic Council of Ministers Action Plan for Vision 2030, and the Nordic Plan for Sustainable Development 2021-24.

While the Nordic Swan Ecolabel focuses on the lifecycle of goods, just as in most ecolabels, it takes no account of the social and economic conditions under which they were produced. Therefore, it is not possible to consider sustainable production or consumption.

The promotion of ecolabels provides valuable insights, but not always clear evidence of guarantees, over the approach taken. They appear to have limited accountability, except where they may conflict with regulations over advertising and marketing, e.g. see UK Government guidance at Although many ecolabels seem to fall short in providing a comprehensive analysis of the entire supply chain in which environmental impacts, workers, and goods are scrutinised, there has been a change towards a wider range of factors taken into account as in the case of Fairtrade. The Scottish Government should ensure a basic level of accountability against which ecolabels should be assessed.

7.5.2 Capacity building

The OECD (2012) note that “strengthened capacity for environmental management will empower individuals, organisations and society as a whole, and it can create a more transparent governance of environmental and natural resources.” One context for such strengthened capacity is the potential for exports into markets in which consumers are becoming more conscious of the roles of supply chains that source products from sustainable systems, and knowledge of the resources and systems behind what is being imported and used in products.

They propose a framework for developing capacity and note that capacity needs to be built at the levels of the individual, organisation, and the enabling policy environment. The enabling policy environment should consider the “policy, legal, regulatory, economic and social support systems in which individuals and organisations operate. It is determined by policies, rule of law, accountability, transparency and flow of information.” Table 4 provides an overview of the framework.

Table 4. OECD framework for enhancing capacity with respect to greening development (Source: OECD, 2012).

Enabling environment

Environment policy framework

Does the development support provider
  • Have a policy on support to the environment?
  • Have a policy on integrating environmental considerations into country programming?
  • Have a policy consistent with other multilateral and bilateral development organisations?
Enabling environment

Environment programme commitment

Does the development support provider
  • Treat the environment as a programme or a sector?
  • Propose financial support for environment-related programmes at regional or country level?
  • Propose active programmes to support capacity building for environment agencies?
  • Run active programmes to integrate the environment into developing planning?
Organisational level

Environmental staffing and responsibilities

Does the development support provider:
  • Have a dedicated environment unit?
  • Have regional- or country-based environmental advisors?
  • Offer environmental training for non-environmental staff members?
Organisational level

Guidance on capacity development and country systems

Does the development support provider:
  • Have a dedicated unit specialising in capacity development knowledge and practice?
  • Have any internationally endorsed best practice guidance on capacity development?
  • Offer guidance on applying best practice to support the strengthening of country systems?
Organisational level

Cross-practice programme capacity

Does the development support provider:
  • Understand needs assessment and determine realistic time frames and outcome indicators.
  • Give organisations incentives to build capacities for greening development that meets the needs of the country concerned?
  • Have mechanisms for cross-practice knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation?
Individual level

Knowledge and experience of:

  • Environmental governance and integration;
  • Economic and poverty-environment linkages
  • Results-based management
Does the development support provider:
  • Have any best practice guidance on capacity development?
  • Have any best practice guidance on enhancing capacity for greening development?
  • Have any reviews or evaluations of past initiatives to support capacity developments for environmental management governance?
  • Have staff members with skills in programme preparation and result-based management?

For each level in the framework (enabling (policy) environment, organisational and individual levels for building capacities) it identifies questions to help focus considerations and inform subsequent actions. Such a framework could be applied to analyse supply chains of products, including their re-use. Understanding the environmental dimensions of those chains would help inform what and how Scottish people and business can be responsible global citizens with a sustainable international footprint, as per the Environment Strategy outcome.

The undertaking of such analysis could be facilitated by agencies of government (e.g. Scottish Enterprise), or form part of toolkits for businesses and sectors in the development or revising of business plans. Such toolkits could be shared through networks and partnerships, contributing to the development of new SMEs and micro-businesses, particularly in rural areas.

Gava et al. (2022) report the benefits of creating and maintaining formal and informal networks across types of actors in a food system, and the role of partnerships, for advancing the sustainability of food production and consumption (e.g. in product and systems innovation, input substitution). Examples of such partnerships are the EIP Operational Groups (Rural Development Programme sub-measure M16.1). In almost all rural development programmes in Europe, EIP projects focus on improving the competitiveness and productivity of farms in response to specific environmental challenges such as: resource preservation; improvement of soil and water management; climate mitigation; adaptation to climate change; preservation of biological diversity and ecosystems; reduction of emissions; and animal welfare.

Other examples of cooperation measures in agriculture support are under the Rural Development Programme Sub-measure M16.5 which provides ‘support for joint action undertaken with a view to mitigating or adapting to climate change, and for joint approaches to environmental projects and ongoing environmental practices’), and those of the innovation hubs supported through the EU Innovation Fund.

The concept of the EIP Operational Groups of EU DG Agri could be extended outwith the agricultural sector. The model of EIP Operational Groups can be adapted for use in food and drink systems and supply chains, and other products with footprints which are international in extent, both for the supply of raw materials and re- or post-use. Such groups could have significant roles in building capacity of actors whether in policy teams, businesses, NGOs or citizens. They could adapt other established approaches to developing capacities with the agriculture sector, designing equivalents to ‘monitor farms’ and peer-to-peer learning which can disseminate on-the-ground experiences, best practices, and lessons learnt.

Benefit could be gained from approaches that harness citizen capabilities as observers of products and processes, and so contribute to monitoring of practices. Technical capacities with social frameworks can provide new products to common standards, across international borders, of which OpenStreetMap is an example. Such citizen science initiatives offer the potential for sharing information and ideas, including the use of environmental information to which rights are enshrined in the Aarhus Convention on access to environmental information (UNECE, 1998).

Associated with building capacity amongst public and private sectors, and citizens, is incentivising and celebrating best practice. Mechanisms include the recognition of behaviours through awards and prizes. Three examples of such awards are:

i) The Australian National Landcare Awards, held every 2 years, include a category of Australian Government Landcare Farming Award. Its requirements include a reduction in GHG emissions; increased biodiversity; increased ground cover particularly during periodic seasonal feed gaps, reduced soil erosion, improved management and handling of livestock to provide both animal welfare, development of innovative practices and improved natural resource management outcomes.

ii) New Zealand Sustainable Business Awards, which include an award of Going Circular. This rewards innovative product, material or service design, product life extension (e.g. by repair, remanufacturing or reuse), product stewardship, dematerialisation, ‘product as a service’, the ‘sharing economy’, or creating value from waste).

iii) The Nature of Scotland Awards include a category of Business for Nature. The award criteria includes, “Explain how your business has taken steps to tackle biodiversity loss, actively reduced its environmental footprint or gone above and beyond normal business practice to benefit nature.” Developing an award alongside this criterion, which delivers on specified objectives of the Environment Strategy, would contribute to celebrating success as well as generating positive messages about best practices.

Linking aspects of the aims of the Environment Strategy with existing awards schemes could form a part of a strategy of raising awareness, creating ‘champions’ and leaders in different sectors of Scottish industry, and acknowledging and celebrating successes.



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