Open Government Partnership Network for Climate Policy: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Open Government Climate Network which relate to commitment 4 of the Open Government Action Plan 2021 to 2025.


This paper outlines the rationale for, and the objectives of, the Open Government Partnership Network for Climate Policy (the network). It also sets out the practical steps for communicating and effectively engaging with the network.

Background to Open Government

The Open Government Partnership was launched in 2011, and it aims to provide an international platform for those committed to making governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Governments around the world sign up to work in partnership with civil society, working together to develop and deliver action plans which promote Open Government values; transparency, accountability, participation, and technology and innovation.

Open Government provides members of the public and civil society organisations with direct access to government, to collaborate to make the work of government transparent, accountable and inclusive. It tends not to focus on introducing new policies. It instead aligns with and enhances existing policy plans and priorities, adding a focus on supporting this work to be developed and delivered in a transparent, accountable and inclusive way – this can, of course, result in policy change.

Climate change commitment and rationale

The Scottish Government (SG) is taking forward it’s Open Government climate change commitment to ‘establish a stakeholder network to deliver on participation and engagement requirements across key milestones for climate change policy’. The remit of the network will support engagement and participation for the upcoming Climate Change Plan (CCP) and Just Transition Plans (JTP), which are the two principal climate policy milestones for the period of the action plan. After the first phase of the network’s operation, this will be assessed with the view to potentially expanding the remit to encompass other core climate policies, depending on evaluation of the model, capacity and discussions with network’s members.

Reaching a diverse audience and different sections of Scottish society to enable participation and engagement in climate change policy will require collaboration with the many and varied organisations across Scotland best placed to deliver these activities. There is a need to consolidate and widen the existing pool of stakeholders regularly consulted, streamline consultative processes, and use these connections to maximise opportunities to develop new options for and drive public participation and engagement in line with the Scottish Government’s Participation Framework and Public Engagement Strategy for Climate Change.

The stakeholder network will support delivery on participation and engagement activities and will provide advice, openness, transparency and accountability on SG actions throughout the four years of the Action Plan. It will also provide a robust and representative basis for co-creation of new opportunities and use the Participation Framework to deepen participation further than consultative processes.

The network will deliver engagement on shaping existing policy commitments, not developing new climate policies independently of existing climate policy processes. This is in order to respect existing climate-related policy development processes such as Scotland’s Climate Assembly and the Just Transition Commission.

Purpose of the network

The core purpose of the network is to enable SG policy teams to invite network members to advise on engagement plans for the CCP and JTP. Such asks need to be put forward in the spirit of meaningful engagement with the network, encouraging co-creation of engagement planning, transparency on levels of influence, and feedback on the outcomes and impact of the advice given.

There is an opportunity for SG teams to invite network members to participate directly in engagement activities. In this case, SG teams will be responsible for the resourcing and facilitation of the activity themselves and subscribe to the same principles of transparency, accountability and feedback as outlined above.

This core purpose is supported by three elements, identified through the network’s co-creating phase. These supporting elements are interlinked and ensure that the network is robust and dynamic, supporting the members to be meaningfully engaged in the process. They will ensure the network moves beyond top-down consultation towards two-way engagement.

The supporting elements are as follows:

  • feedback, transparency and accountability: as outlined above, a key element of the network is for members and SG teams to participate in two-way conversations about engagement plans, and for members to be informed about their level of influence and the resulting impact of their involvement. This is important to ensure that member’s input can be meaningful and their time and effort valued
  • peer support, learning and knowledge exchange: as the network seeks to bring together a range of different stakeholders, there will be a space for members to share updates, trainings, best practice and seek advice from each other. This is key to build knowledge and expertise amongst the members to support stronger advice into the policy process
  • dedicated children and young people support: to enable meaningful engagement with children and young people (CYP), it is important to provide them with tailored support and not treat them the same as adult members of the network. This will be co-created with relevant stakeholder and will likely consist of a separate online space within the network for sharing tailored materials, additional support/training, and opportunities to ask questions. Given that CYP is the demographic most likely to be impacted by the transition to net zero for the longest proportion of their lives, including CYP in engagement and participation is a commitment within the Public Engagement Strategy for Climate Change


The objectives of the network are to:

  • reach diverse audiences by collaborating with the organisations/individuals across Scotland best placed to engage these audiences on climate change
  • fill a gap in climate policy engagement by bringing together these organisations/individuals with climate policy-makers to deliver on participation objectives – there is currently no singular forum to support this
  • consolidate and widen the pool of stakeholders, streamline processes, and develop new opportunities for participation and engagement in order to strengthen climate policy delivery


The expected outcomes of the network are:

  • expert advice to support and deliver engagement on key climate change policy
  • greater transparency and accountability of SG activities and performance
  • increased participation in climate policy design and delivery
  • rationalisation of existing stakeholder groups


Members invited to join the network will be provided with a starter pack that includes:

  • background material on SG’s Open Government Action Plan
  • the network terms of reference
  • a forward-planner of potential climate change policy milestones over the following six months
  • signposting to materials to build a baseline knowledge of climate change
  • resources on accessibility and inclusivity

After initial invitations to the network have been issued, the membership of the network will be kept open for others who are interested to join. Network members are welcome to suggest potential members, and the SG coordinating team will reach out to relevant organisations/individuals to fill gaps in membership representation. The network will seek to include a wide range of organisations, individuals, and other stakeholders. While those concerned with climate change and climate policy are likely to be a central part of the network, it will also move beyond this to include non-climate specific organisations and people with wider interests, such as equality groups.

Reflecting the need for whole societal support to reach Scotland’s ambitious climate targets, the network will aim to cover a wide range of sectors, demographics and geographies. Whilst being open and inclusive, it is expected that potential members will represent their audiences and/or bring specific skills or expertise that would benefit the network. A basic foundational knowledge of climate change would be advisable for network members. Members will usually inhabit the characteristics of “Trusted Messengers” as outlined in the Public Engagement Strategy for Climate Change.

All network members will be able to refer or suggest new members to the network, or identify gaps in membership. The membership and representativeness of the network will be discussed at the network’s biannual meetings (see below).

It is not possible to estimate the time requirement of network members at this stage, particularly as input will be given by members on a voluntary basis. To support forward-planning on this, SG will maintain a planner of upcoming key climate change policy milestones that the network can advise on. This will be published on the digital platform.

Members representing a wider organisation or group are expected to function as a main point of contact, but are free to bring in others from their organisation for support where relevant. If members leave their organisation or group, they are responsible for proposing a replacement representative for the network.

Roles and responsibilities

Role of network members

Network members should be able to feedback on engagement and participation requirements for climate policy milestones, receive support and information about SG climate policy, and offer feedback on the running of the network.

As and when key climate policy milestones arise, SG will bring these issues to the network for input on engagement and participation requirements. Members are free to opt in or out of requests for input to specific climate milestones put forward to the network. SG teams will use the ‘Spectrum of Participation’ matrix (see below) from SG’s Participation Framework to outline the types of engagement sought from network members and the level of participation possible for the individual asks/milestones.

Spectrum of participation



  • to provide the public with balanced and objective information

Offer to participants:

  • we will keep you informed
  • we will provide information openly and transparently
  • we will not withhold relevant information


  • to inform those with an interest in the outcome (i.e. the public and stakeholder groups)



  • to obtain feedback on analysis, alternatives, proposals and/or decisions

Offer to participants:

  • we will keep you informed
  • we will listen to and acknowledge your concerns and aspirations
  • we will give serious consideration to your contributions
  • we will be open to your influence
  • we will provide feedback on how your input has influenced the outcome


  • to inform those making the decision or developing proposals



  • to work directly with participants throughout the policy / decision making process to ensure that their concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered

Offer to participants:

  • we will keep you informed
  • we will work with you to ensure that your concerns and aspirations are directly reflected in the outcome / alternatives developed
  • we will provide feedback on how your input has influenced the outcome


  • to enable participants to directly influence the decision / options developed



  • to partner with participants in each aspect of the decision, including defining the issue, developing alternatives and identifying preferred solutions

Offer to participants:

  • we will look to you for advice and innovation in formulating solutions
  • we will incorporate your advice and recommendations into decision / implementation to the maximum extent possible


  • to share the development and decision making process (as much as possible)



  • to place final decision-making in the hands of the participants - to delegate 

Offer to participants:

  • we will implement what you decide


  • to hand over the ability to make decisions and / or take action

Feedback will be given in a mutual manner. Firstly, the network will advise SG on the issues brought forward, and, secondly, SG will feed back to the network on how their advice has been used.

Role of Scottish Government

SG co-developed and co-owns the Open Government action plan with civil society, and within this commitment SG will fulfil a network coordination role. SG will manage the co-creation process, develop and host the online platform used for communication between SG and the network, ensure that policy asks of the network are forthcoming and planned in a timely manner, and that processes and guidance are followed.

The network will be engaged only where there is a true opportunity for members to influence climate change policy.

SG will be open and transparent about the influence and impact of the network and how and why their feedback/opinions are used. This will be fed back in real time on a case-by-case basis, and summarised at biannual network meetings (see below).

Continuous improvement and progress reporting

The terms of reference has been co-created with a core group of invited stakeholders. Throughout the duration of the Open Government action plan the network will be able to amend the terms of reference and the general structure of the network if desired. This can principally be done during the biannual meetings, and will be a standing agenda item. Feedback on what works well and what can be improved is welcomed and the running of the network should be flexible enough to adjust accordingly.

As is required for all Open Government commitments, SG will complete six monthly progress reporting on the network, which will be published alongside the action plan. The performance of the network will be reviewed during biannual network meetings (see below), and this feedback will inform the progress reporting.


The Open Government Action Plan runs to May 2025, and the network will run at least until the end of the Action Plan, provided support is maintained from the network members. Members are free to opt in and out of the network at any time they wish. They are also free to opt in and out of requests for input put forward to the network depending on relevancy and capacity. The time commitment is dependent on the climate milestone/feedback opportunity presented.

Communication will be primarily online, in two main ways:

  • a dynamic online platform where members can share updates, information, best practice and feedback on opportunities put forward by SG teams
  • biannual online network meetings will be offered for discussion, feedback, review and forward-look. The standing agenda for these meetings will include: six monthly forward planner; network membership and representativeness; and feedback on previous six months of operation, the terms of reference and the operation of the network

The online platform will have a dedicated space for support for CYP to meaningfully engage with the network. This could include CYP friendly materials, closer follow-up, etc. This is in line with the Public Engagement Strategy for Climate Change and the SG commitment to engage with CYP on climate policy. We will seek to co-create this space with CYP stakeholders.

The input and ideas from network members are primarily open for all other members to see as we value discussion and learning between the network members, alongside our commitment to openness and transparency. However, if members wish to discuss something of a sensitive or confidential information pertinent to their organisation, there will be an option to do so directly with the SG co-ordinating team.

The SG coordinating team will strive to make the network as accessible and inclusive as possible, in line with commitments made in the PES. This includes providing extra support when needed, accessible reading materials, and other considerations needed to ensure wide participation.


The SG coordinating team, consisting of representatives from across SG’s Domestic Climate Change Division, will work together to feed information, milestones and support to the network. This team will draw on advice and guidance from SG Open Government colleagues.

The network is intended to be largely self-running and not resource intensive, with budget requirements being addressed over time.

Back to top