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.


Climate change action is already being taken across many individual policy areas within the Scottish Government, and across the wider public sector. Policies and regulations that support the Government's climate change ambitions will continue to develop over time and many of these will impact upon the public sector to varying degrees. The Scottish Government will communicate developments through its website and other channels, and stakeholders will be involved in development of these policies and regulations in the usual manner, including through consultation as appropriate.

The summaries below provide context on action in individual policy areas, along with links to further information and relevant documentation. In addition, Annex D contains a series of tables which have been developed for the key sectors identified in the Scottish Government's Climate Change Delivery Plan and Scotland's Adaptation Framework to highlight how the sector impacts on climate change and suggest actions that could be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare Scotland for a changing climate.


'Leading by Example' 61 is the Scottish Government's enabling programme to improve Scottish public sector environmental and sustainability performance across four main areas of the Scottish public sector - the core Scottish Government, public bodies, local authorities and NHSScotland. The Scottish Government has also developed a Carbon Management Plan in partnership with the Carbon Trust which sets targets for the reduction of the estate's emissions. Progress in achieving these, along with other sustainability targets are published annually in the Environmental Report. Options are currently being considered to facilitate more regular reporting of a range of sustainability and environmental information.

(i) Transport

Transport is an essential part of economic activity and a sector where greenhouse gas emissions are growing. We also need to ensure that our transport infrastructure is resilient and prepared for a changing climate. For details on national transport policy, please see the National Transport Strategy 62

(ii) Energy

The public sector will need to play a key role if Scotland is to successfully reduce its energy consumption by the magnitude required to meet Scotland's climate change targets. As well as the direct environmental and financial benefits of improving energy efficiency, the public sector also has the scope to act as an exemplar to other sectors. If the Scottish Government and other public sector partners expect businesses and individuals to cut their energy use, then it is vital that the sector itself demonstrates highly energy efficient behaviour, both in the energy performance of its vast estate and through the many staff it employs. The Scottish Government consulted on an Energy Efficiency Action Plan for Scotland and published an analysis of the consultation responses.

The Scottish Government then published its Energy Efficiency Action Plan 63 in October 2010 which introduces a headline target to reduce Scottish final energy consumption by 12% by 2020, with an indication of how this will be monitored. It also sets out a wide ranging programme of activity on behaviour change, household, business and public sector energy efficiency, infrastructure, skills and finance.

Please also see the Renewables Action Plan 64 and the Low Carbon Economy Strategy 65

(iii) Waste

Waste management is a key area as all organisations produce waste and all bodies can, through their own waste treatment decisions, influence the way waste is managed in society and businesses. We can all play our part in avoiding unnecessary use of resources to reduce the amount of waste we produce, reuse valuable resources, and increase recycling levels to help Scotland become a Zero Waste society. The Scottish Government's Zero Waste Plan 66 sets out the direction and steps to make Scotland a zero waste society where resources are used efficiently; demand on primary resources is minimised; and reuse, recycling and recovery of resources becomes the norm. The Zero Waste Plan envisages most waste being sorted into separate streams for reuse or reprocessing, leaving only limited amounts of waste to go to residual waste treatment and landfill.

(iv) Biodiversity and ecosystems

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity, but conserving biodiversity is also one of the best ways of mitigating some of the impacts of climate change, e.g. flood protection. Scotland's biodiversity strategy, Scotland's Biodiversity: It's in Your Hands 67 , sets out how the government will conserve biodiversity for the health, enjoyment and wellbeing of the people of Scotland now and in the future.

(v) Land use (including spatial planning, agriculture and forestry)

Scotland's first Land Use Strategy is currently under preparation and will be laid in Parliament by March 2011, following a public consultation on a draft Strategy between September and December 2010. The Strategy will take a strategic look at our land resources in Scotland, and set out how we can begin to balance the competing demands we make upon land and make real progress in optimising our use of land so as to contribute to the climate change agenda.

(vi) Built environment

The designs of our buildings and the materials we use to construct them impacts upon greenhouse gas emissions. Changes in the climate will also threaten our building infrastructure. The Planning etc. (Scotland) Act requires that the National Planning Framework 68 be developed with the objective of contributing to sustainable development. 'Scottish Planning Policy' 69 highlights the five principles of sustainable development and the targets of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Scottish Planning Policy also sets out a strategic approach to the location of new development that contributes to sustainable development and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy should be taken into account in the preparation of Development Plans and are relevant (material) considerations in the determination of planning applications.

(viii) Water resource management

The observed and projected trend of wetter winters and drier summers will impact on water quality and water availability. Flood risk will increase due to climate change putting additional pressures on society, the environment and the economy. Water usage and efficiency directly relates to greenhouse gas emissions.

(ix) Health and wellbeing

Changes in the climate will impact upon our health and well being. There are also synergies between improving our health and wellbeing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Programmes such as Healthy Working Lives 70 and Active Nation 71 can assist in identifying those areas of activity which would both help meet climate change duties and have positive effects on our everyday lives.

(x) Business and industry

The public sector can work with business and industry to help Scotland move towards a low-carbon economy. Impacts of the changing climate will be felt by every business irrespective of their size, location, markets, products and services. The Low Carbon Economic Strategy ( LCES) is an integral part of the Government's Economic Strategy to secure sustainable economic growth, and a key component of the broader approach to meet Scotland's climate change targets and secure the transition to a low-carbon economy in Scotland.


Guidance has been issued to Scotland's National Devolved Public Bodies 72 to support them to adopt an outcomes-based approach and align their activity to the National Performance Framework. All national devolved public bodies are expected to contribute to the national outcomes on reducing the local and global environmental impact of Scotland's consumption and production.

In addition, several public bodies have published their own climate change action plans. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA) 73 , Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) 74 , Forestry Commission Scotland ( FCS) 75 and Historic Scotland 76 are public bodies with responsibilities for different aspects of Scotland's environment and heritage. In addition, they have published a joint 'Action on Climate Change' statement 77 , outlining their respective roles in taking forward action on climate change.

Many public bodies, working through mechanisms such as the Carbon Trust 78 Carbon Management Programme, are cutting their energy use and emissions.


In summer 2009, the Scottish Government and Community Planning Partnerships agreed 2nd Phase Single Outcome Agreements ( SOAs) 79 . These SOAs set out key priorities identified by each of the 32 Community Planning Partnerships for a local area, expressed in the form of local outcomes which contribute to the Scottish Government's Purpose and National Outcomes and which local partners undertake to pursue. Local outcomes and/or associated measures on tackling climate change at the local level feature in SOAs. In addition, a number of provisions that will impact on local government were introduced by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, including new powers to enable councils to give council tax and non-domestic rates rebates for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements made to homes and other buildings.

Securing Best Value applies across the public sector as a statutory duty for councils and an auditable requirement for accountable officers in the health and central government sectors. Sustainable development is a core part of Best Value. The Best Value Sustainability Toolkit 80 is a tool to support local authorities in delivering the Duty for Sustainable Development set out in the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003.

Through Scotland's Climate Change Declaration 81 , all of Scotland's local authorities have committed themselves to take action, in partnership with the Scottish Government, on climate change.

As part of supporting local authorities to integrate climate change into their core corporate planning processes, the Scottish Government and COSLA will jointly issue supplementary guidance for Local Housing Strategies on climate change. This will help local authorities integrate their approach to energy efficiency and climate change with fuel poverty and mainstream housing policies. Given that approximately one quarter of all carbon emissions are currently attributable to housing, this sector will be an important focus of efforts to reach the overall reduction target.


NHSScotland has strict energy targets 82 for new and existing buildings and has been reducing energy consumption since 1985 based upon a 1.5% - 2% climatically adjusted target which was increased to 2% in 2001. A 2010/11 target has been agreed which commits NHSScotland to reduce energy-based carbon emissions and to continue a reduction in energy consumption over the five-year period to 2014/15 at which time the target will be reviewed based upon performance. This target is designed to ensure NHSScotland contributes to the greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets set in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

The Scottish Government Health Directorates commissioned Health Facilities Scotland 83 to produce a carbon footprint report for NHSScotland which was published in October 2009. This report provides a baseline for future actions and will inform the review and development of the Sustainable Development Strategy for NHSScotland and related policy revisions. The report will also assist NHSScotland in meeting the key challenge to build on its achievements so far in reducing emissions - by continuing to do so whilst also continuing to deliver an expanding range of healthcare services.


The majority of Scotland's universities and colleges have signed the Universities & Colleges Climate Change Commitment for Scotland 84 , which is facilitated by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges. This commitment requires the preparation and publication of a five-year Climate Change Action Plan.


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