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.


Public bodies will need practical support and tools to help them understand, implement and comply with the climate change duties. Knowledge and research about the causes of climate change and methodologies for tackling it is growing all the time. While meeting the challenges of climate change is stretching, it also brings many opportunities. In taking forward their responsibilities, public bodies should consider how best to build capacity within their organisation and identify appropriate support where available.

This may mean looking at embedding new approaches and cultures across the organisation or it may mean creating or improving capacity in relation to specific tools or projects. Public bodies will be at different stages of skills development in relation to carbon management and other climate change action. Some public bodies are at the leading edge of the field with best practice to share. Others with fewer resources may find this a new area.

Public bodies are encouraged to share ideas on learning with other organisations and individuals for example through websites, networking and partnership working. There are also a range of organisations which facilitate networks and provide support. Sharing best practice as knowledge and experience grows will be important.

In summary, there is an increasing amount of information, tools, programmes and methodologies available that could help public bodies in complying with the climate change duties. Each of these will have particular strengths and limitations in meeting the varying needs and capacities of public bodies and it is likely that a 'basket' of tools will be needed.

This chapter provides public bodies with information and signposting to existing support, tools and guidance. These have been grouped as follows:

  • Delivery bodies and other support for climate change mitigation and adaptation; and
  • Recording, monitoring and assessing greenhouse gas emissions.

This chapter is in addition to the checklists and advice found throughout the guidance, and will make public bodies are aware of and feel confident in accessing sources of information, guidance and tools which are available to support them in undertaking their duties.


A number of Scottish Government-funded delivery bodies and agencies offer different types of resource efficiency support to the public sector in Scotland. These programmes in Scotland include Carbon Trust 37 , Energy Saving Trust 38 , SEPA 39 and Zero Waste Scotland 40 .

The Scottish Government funds the Sustainable Scotland Network ( SSN) 41 to provide assistance to local authorities in achieving a sustainable Scotland. It also funds the Scottish Climate Change Impacts Partnership 42 , aimed at increasing the resilience of Scottish organisations and infrastructure to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the impacts of climate change.

Box 6: Support available to help public bodies adapt to the changing climate

The Scottish Government supports a free information and resource hub in Scotland. The Scottish Climate Change Impacts Partnership ( SCCIP) has been established to increase the resilience of Scottish organisations and infrastructure to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the impacts of climate change.

SCCIP endeavours to increase the awareness and preparedness of organisations affected by climate change and, where appropriate, by facilitating their adaptation to the unavoidable consequences of our changing climate.

There are some excellent sources of information and tools which can help organisations adapt. Through its website, SCCIP provides access to the latest information and tools. Examples include:

SCCIP has also developed a useful guide on adaptation for businesses, Adapting to Climate Change: a Guide for Businesses in Scotland 43 and is currently developing adaptation guidance for the public sector. SCCIP's guidance for the public sector will be supplemented by other support materials in the future, including a workbook for practitioners in public sector organisations.

HM Treasury and Defra have also produced guidance for the public sector on adapting to the changing climate: Accounting for the Effects of Climate Change 44 .

With support from the Scottish Funding Council, the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges ( EAUC) 45 provides the further and higher education sector with dedicated advice, guidance and training in all aspects of sustainability, environmental management and social responsibility.

Guidance, direct help and assistance is provided by Health Facilities Scotland 46 on a broad range of measures and initiatives to assist NHS Boards to improve their energy efficiency, reduce their CO 2 emissions and contribute to the Scottish Government's sustainable development objectives.


Greenhouse gases are recorded, monitored or assessed for a number of reasons. This can be to monitor progress against a target - i.e. where the emissions have already occurred. Or emissions can be assessed as a means of informing a decision - i.e. before they have been emitted. Both types of measuring play an important part in taking account of greenhouse gas emissions and it is therefore important to understand the aim of the analysis. For example, is it to record and monitor emissions? Or is it to inform a low-carbon decision? From the outset, the purpose of undertaking a carbon assessment must be understood.

Monitoring progress

There are a number of ways to record and monitor greenhouse gas emissions from the operation of a public body. It is important to set out clearly which emissions are included in the recording and why they have been included. Direct and indirect (electricity) are easier to measure and monitor than the wider indirect emissions. Box 7 sets out what is classified as direct and indirect emissions.

Assessing and appraising carbon impact of options

Using carbon impact assessment as a policy or decision appraisal tool is an effective way to understand and account for the greenhouse gas emissions impacts of public sector activity.

While a single comprehensive carbon assessment tool may be desirable, this is not achievable given the fundamentally different assessment applications each public body may need to address. Simple and transparent assessments, chosen by, and appropriate to user needs, that help to foster a common understanding of the issues are likely to the most effective way forward in the short term. In time it may be possible and appropriate to build up the coverage, deepen the level of analysis and develop common methodologies for specified purposes. However, at this stage of development for this emerging analytical area, increasing the sophistication of the tools and their underlying methods should be secondary to widening engagement and use of available assessment techniques.

Decisions on the ground will need to demonstrate how they have taken account of their carbon impacts in line with the statutory duties. While this evidence may not necessarily be used in formal reporting on the annual emissions reduction targets set under the Act, considering the carbon impact of decisions is a central part of achieving wider organisational change to help Scotland achieve the annual targets and move Scotland towards a low-carbon economy.

Whereas commercial entities are primarily interested in own estate emissions (from production/service operations and corporate function) and those arising in their supply chains, public bodies' influence over emissions extends much further through their roles as regulator, planning authority, policy maker, service provider, tax setter, procurer, information provider and funder.

A high proportion of the emissions considered in public sector carbon assessment result from the use/consumption of both public and private sector assets of the economy - for example, private vehicles driven on publicly-maintained road networks. Some public bodies have the power to regulate how these private and public assets are used or to influence the choices faced by businesses and individuals. Additionally, different parts of the public sector perform different functions and this has implications for the most appropriate way to categorise and assess emissions.

Useful tips for recording, monitoring and assessing greenhouse gas emissions

The challenges in recording, monitoring or assessing greenhouse gas emissions result from the multiple ways in which the issue can be approached and implications for how emissions can usefully be categorised. The following may provide a helpful steer:

1) Function of organisation and its influence over emissions - How can the organisation usefully define its impact on emissions? This will dictate the most suitable way in which monitoring or assessing can be undertaken.

2) Set out your boundaries clearly - One of the key choices to make when monitoring or assessing greenhouse gas emissions is deciding where the boundaries lie for what emissions to include. There are a number of terms used in setting boundaries. These include direct emissions, indirect emissions, operational emissions, embedded emissions (sometimes referred to as 'embodied' emissions) and life-cycle analysis.

3) Reporting - In order to set targets public bodies will need to establish their baseline direct emissions. Public bodies should select a baseline based on the most recent information available, which is appropriate to their own circumstance. As a guide, the baselines for the national targets are 1990 or 1995 (depending on the greenhouse gas). However, due to a lack of available data it may not be feasible for all bodies to use these years, and more recent baselines may be appropriate. The extent of indirect emission reporting will be informed by the boundaries established in this exercise.

4) Set out which gases are included in your assessment - The use of the term 'carbon' is often interpreted to mean carbon dioxide equivalent and refers to all six greenhouse gases. However, in some instances, it is only accounting for carbon dioxide or actual carbon. It is important to be clear about which gases have been included in the calculation of total emissions in any carbon assessment.

5) Use consistent conversion factors - It is also important to use consistent conversion factors and further information on these can be found at:

6) Understand your reason for the monitoring or assessment - And finally, understand why you are carrying out the assessment. Is it to monitor progress towards a target? Or is it to make an informed decision?

Box 7: Recording and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions

In recording and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions impacts, it is helpful to classify the impacts according to where and why they arise. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol 47 provides accepted international standards to understand, quantify and report GHG emissions - for both government and business. It categorises GHG emissions into direct (Scope 1), electricity indirect (Scope 2) and other indirect (Scope 3) emissions. Scopes 1 and 2 should be most easily measurable while Scope 3 emissions can be significantly harder to gauge. Monitoring will also depend upon where the assessment boundaries are drawn.

Direct/Scope 1 emissions are defined as those arising from direct owned or controlled combustion in furnaces, boilers and vehicles, as well as direct chemical and other process emissions. These emissions are often associated with activities which involve the consumption of fossil fuels, such as in public sector transport fleets, or emissions from government-owned buildings. They are commonly identified as 'own estate' operational emissions.

Electricity Indirect/Scope 2 emissions are defined as those which arise in the generation of purchased electricity. Here the emission occurs with the company generating the electricity at their power station but can be attributed to the consumer. For the electricity company itself, however, these emissions would fall under Scope 1. Almost all public sector buildings rely on electricity drawn from the national grid and procured under national electricity procurement contracts. The decision to run IT equipment in public sector buildings entails the consumption of this electricity and this leads indirectly (via the power-station) to an emission.

Other indirect emissions/Scope 3 emissions are defined as any which arise as the consequence of the activities of the public sector but occur from sources not owned or controlled by it. For measurement and appraisal purposes, these can be grouped in downstream use emissions and upstream procurement emissions. Whereas use emissions almost exclusively arise in Scotland, emissions which arise through procurement policy may occur overseas.

Use emissions which the government can influence occur as infrastructure, such as housing, roads and the built environment utilised by citizens. The emissions impacts are often long-lived, in line with the term over which the assets exist. They are not 'own estate' emissions but they are influenced by government policy and by the way public services are designed and delivered.

Both planning and infrastructure spend/frameworks can lead to changes to travel patterns and to the way in which land is used - giving rise to changes in emissions in Scotland - which need to be taken into account in designing policy.

Legislation requires, amongst other things, that public procurement is conducted transparently and in such a way that all suppliers are treated equally. At the present time there is no single agreed method of calculating or evaluating embedded emissions that meets those obligations. As sustainable public sector procurement continues to mature, tools may become available that meet these requirements and the Scottish Government will continue to monitor the situation. Public sector organisations should focus on effective implementation of the Scottish Sustainable Procurement Action Plan. The Action Plan emphasises the importance of building in sustainability at the beginning of each procurement process to ensure that all suppliers incorporate an agreed level of sustainability into their proposals.

Other indirect emissions may also occur where there are second-round effects of policy, such as an economic stimulus to certain industries. For example, policies directed at incentivising renewable heat technologies create a knock-on demand for the skills, materials and supply chains to support their rollout and delivery across the economy.

In addition, policies may be indirectly responsible for emissions from waste, agricultural processes or from changes to land management (e.g. fertiliser use), land use and forestry - which are not related to the saving of fuel.

Tools and methodologies for measuring, assessing and monitoring emissions

There are a number of useful sources of information, tools and methodologies to help organisations measure and monitor greenhouse gas emissions or assess their potential impact, qualitatively or quantitatively on greenhouse gas emissions.


The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 48 requires that a Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) 49 be undertaken for those public plans, programmes and strategies that have the potential to generate significant (either positive or negative) environmental effects, if implemented. As SEA requires consideration of climatic factors et al, the requirement to undertake a SEA of a wide range of local authority plans, programmes and strategies can help to ensure positive climate change actions are integrated at the local level. The Scottish Government has published guidance on the consideration of climatic factors within strategic environmental assessment 50 , which was prepared by SEPA. The advice contained in this guidance aims to support good practice when assessing climatic factors within the SEA process.


Recently-refreshed guidance on Best Value 51 groups its characteristics into themes in a way which both emphasises the connections between the characteristics and assists partnership working.

Sustainability is one of two cross-cutting themes for an organisation subject to the existing Best Value duty. The Best Value Sustainability Toolkit 52 is a tool which has been developed to support public bodies who are covered by the Best Value Duty to take action on sustainability. Other bodies not subject to Best Value may still find this a helpful source of information.


Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics

Carbon dioxide emissions estimates, on an end-user basis, for each local authority area in Scotland can be accessed through Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics 53 . This may not be appropriate to all bodies but will be relevant where public bodies are working in partnership or where their geographic span or influence or functions is broad enough.

Carbon and Ecological Footprinting

Footprinting can be helpful in assessing sustainability more generally on an area basis. Measuring our ecological footprint can help us understand the impact of our lifestyles. The ecological footprint gives us an overall measure of the global impact of our everyday choices and offers an estimate of the land and sea area needed to provide all the energy, water, transport, food and materials that we consume. An estimate of our ecological footprint at a national level and the methodology used to measure performance against the National Indicator on reducing it is available in Scotland Performs 54 .

At a local level there are a number of footprinting tools available, focusing on ecological footprint, carbon footprint or elements of these (for example waste, energy, water). These vary in applicability to local authority area, community, business or individual level.

The Local Footprints website ( provides advice on two footprint tools:

  • the REAP tool which can aid local authorities, and others, to assess the impact of new policies on their local area footprint. A licence fee is charged to use the REAP tool; and
  • a schools' footprint calculator, which is freely available.


Review of Climate Change Mitigation Tools for Local Authorities project

In 2007, the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research commissioned a project to look at tools available for climate change mitigation. The Review of Climate Change Mitigation Tools for Local Authorities project can be found on their website (see with a project code of CC06.

Environmental Tools directory 55

Aether (an independent environmental consultancy) and ENDS (a provider of independent environmental information to professionals in business and public bodies) have developed an Environmental Tools directory 56 that currently holds over 350 available tools in an array of formats - documents, spreadsheets, websites and other software programmes - to assist environmental assessments and other related practices. The directory is a free impartial resource but does not provide validation, peer review or endorsement of specific tools, nor can it guarantee a complete comprehensive listing. If using the database, public bodies would wish to satisfy themselves that any chosen tools are fit for their purposes.


Email: Central Enquiries Unit,

The Scottish Government
St Andrew’s House

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