Public bodies climate change duties: putting them into practice, guidance required by part four of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009

Guidance to support public bodies in exercising their duties under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.


This guidance has been prepared to assist public bodies in complying with the duties placed upon them by Part 4 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

The Act sets clear and ambitious targets for emissions reduction, including a 42% reduction by 2020, and other climate change provisions, including adaptation. The public sector has a crucial leadership role in the delivery of Scotland's climate change ambitions in both these areas, and in acting sustainably. In recognition of this, Part 4 of the Act places duties on public bodies relating to climate change to enter into force on 1 January 2011.

These duties require that a public body must, in exercising its functions, act in the way best calculated to contribute to the delivery of emissions reduction targets (known as 'mitigation'), in the way best calculated to help deliver any statutory climate change adaptation programme, and in a way that it considers is most sustainable.

Part 4 of the Act also requires that Scottish Ministers must give guidance to public bodies in relation to their climate change duties, and those bodies must have regard to such guidance.

In recognition of the important ongoing role that planning for, and delivery of, climate change action will play in public bodies' everyday business processes and service delivery, this guidance has been developed to assist public bodies in addressing climate change action as a key strategic issue and in mainstreaming it alongside other corporate priorities.

The guidance begins by setting the public bodies climate change duties in context: what the duties are as set out in the Act, which bodies are covered by them, how this guidance has been developed and how it should be used. It then moves on in Chapter 2 to set out the strategic framework for climate change action in Scotland and introduces key elements of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 which are of relevance to the public bodies duties or help to set wider action in context.

Chapter 3 explores the scope of the duties in more detail and outlines the key principles which underpin the guidance. It introduces the concepts of mitigation, adaptation and sustainability in more detail, along with the principle of 'proportionality' and the concept of some bodies as 'Major Players' on climate change action. The guidance considers these Major Players to be bodies with large estates and/or staff numbers, high impact and influence, large expenditure, or an auditing or regulatory function, and suggests that these bodies should be ambitious in their action on climate change and seek to do more than others.

The core chapter of the guidance - Chapter 4 - contains a 'step-by-step' approach to assist public bodies in integrating climate change into their business practices. This process is broken down into sub-sections taking public bodies through a series of four steps from understanding their duties and assessing their impact and influence on climate change, to taking action using a variety of tools and techniques, and finally to reporting as a means of demonstrating compliance.

Each step within the process contains a set of desired outcomes which it will deliver and suggested actions to take to assist in meeting these. Additional suggested actions for those bodies considered to be Major Players are also included, along with diagrams and definitions of important concepts or policy frameworks.

Chapter 5 brings together sources of information and practical support and tools which will assist bodies in working through the step-by-step approach to climate change action. These have been grouped into broad categories: delivery bodies and other support (details of organisations providing support on climate change action which bodies may find helpful), area-based methodologies and footprinting, Strategic Environmental Assessment, and recording, monitoring and assessing greenhouse gas emissions.

The tools and support in Chapter 5 are also supplemented by short guides to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change adaptation which are included as annexes.

The final chapter on next steps sets out the plans for keeping the guidance under review to ensure it remains an effective source of support to public bodies in their action on climate change.


Email: Central Enquiries Unit,

The Scottish Government
St Andrew’s House

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