The role of public sector bodies in tackling climate change: consultation analysis

This presents the main messages arising from the consultation on the Role of Public Sector Bodies in Tackling Climate Change.

This consultation has focused purely on Scottish Public Sector Bodies.

Executive Summary

This Executive Summary presents the main messages arising from the consultation on the Role of Public Sector Bodies in Tackling Climate Change.

There is a Global Climate Emergency and everyone across Scotland needs to be part of the solution. Tackling climate change and ensuring we have a sustainable, thriving and healthy environment is critical to our collective wellbeing, and central to the ambitions and responsibilities set out in Scotland's National Performance Framework. Scotland has already almost halved greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, while simultaneously growing the economy and increasing employment and productivity. We now need to increase our efforts and the pace of change, while maintaining the focus on reducing emissions in a way that supports inclusive economic growth.

This consultation has focused purely on Scottish public sector bodies. Public sector bodies are legally required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support Scotland's adaptation to a changing climate. Scottish Ministers, in turn, are legally required to provide guidance to public sector bodies to help them with this. Public sector bodies are also legally required to report annually on their greenhouse gas emissions and what they are doing to help adapt to a changing climate.

The consultation contained two parts:

  • Part 1 - How information is provided and shared, and how public sector bodies collaborate with each other and the rest of Scotland.
  • Part 2 – How to improve the reporting arrangements to reduce the administrative burden on public sector bodies, and to drive action.

A total of 146 responses were received to the consultation. Around three-quarters of responses were from organisations, and the remainder were from individuals.

A summary of the findings are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Summary Analysis Table


Main Comments

Q1 – What additional training, information or guidance do you think public sector bodies need to help them increase their action on climate change?

  • A wide range of general and more specific feedback was provided.
  • General comments related to the need for a co-ordinated approach at a national level to help public sector bodies accelerate action on climate change. It was reported that clear and specific statutory/mandatory guidance would be required to help inform decision-making and to embed climate change as core business (i.e. what must be done, what should be done).
  • There was also a call for investment at a national level to allow public sector bodies to deliver on the Scotland-wide ambition.
  • The provision of clear, relevant, regular and continuously updated information was considered essential (e.g. briefings, case studies, information sessions, newsletters, online forums). There was support for a single access point to information and signposting to existing sources of information and data.
  • Training was considered vital to ensure a shared understanding and to facilitate collaborative working. There was recognition that training was needed for senior and middle managers, but that all staff and Board/Elected Members should have a basic knowledge and understanding of the impact of their work on supporting Scotland's climate ambitions.
  • A wide range of training (skills and technical support) were identified, most notably carbon and carbon literacy, and carbon management and accounting.

Q2 - What are your views on the proposed structure for the High Ambition Climate Network of Chief Executives and Elected Members?

  • There was strong support in principle for the proposed High Ambition Climate Network of Chief Executives and Elected Members. It was considered crucial that there were structures in place to fully engage public sector leaders in discussions about accelerating action on climate change, promoting action and innovation, and raising the profile of environmental issues.
  • A clear message was that the High Ambition Climate Network would need to have a clear purpose, remit, roles, and responsibilities. As well as processes to assess the overall effectiveness and efficiency of these structures. Continued top level involvement was said to be crucial.
  • Many respondents, however, called for further clarity and detail on: definitions and selection processes; membership composition, refresh and governance; the nature/level of support and engagement with public sector bodies not directly involved in the network; support to the network and expert advice; and engagement with existing structures.
  • Many raised concerns about the proposed structure and frequency of meetings for the High Ambition Climate Network. If membership was restricted to 15 organisations, then there were concerns about how the large number of other public bodies would be encouraged and mobilised to meet their obligations and play their part in tackling climate change. Many also considered bi-annual meetings to be insufficient.
  • Many respondents perceived that the proposals could leave a significant gap in support at a practitioner level, with concerns raised about the cessation of funding for the Sustainable Scotland Network Secretariat.


Assessment of Feedback

Main Comments

Q3 - Do you agree that public sector bodies should be required to set targets for when they will achieve zero direct emissions, and for reduced indirect emissions?

The vast majority agreed

  • Target setting was welcomed by most respondents, and considered crucial to ensure that public sector bodies were motivated and united in playing their part in meeting the national target. It was also felt that this would facilitate greater levels of collaborative working. Further guidance, capacity building and training would be needed to ensure a consistent approach to target-setting and reporting.
  • There was wider feedback that any targets set must be well-informed, realistic and achievable, and that consideration could be given to intermediate targets to aid monitoring of progress. The need for a supportive internal environment and greater investment was emphasised. There was support for a degree of flexibility to refine and amend targets/dates, and that further guidance from the Scottish Government would be required around how public sector bodies should deal with factors outwith their control.

Q4 - Do you agree that public sector bodies should report annually on how they use their resources to contribute to reducing emissions?

The vast majority agreed

  • The main feedback was that the proposal outlined for annual reporting was reasonable. There were wider comments around the importance of: increasing accountability and transparency; driving action and incentivising change; and encouraging the sharing of learning, best practice and innovative approaches across the public sector.

Q5 - Do you agree that the details of what public sector bodies are required to report on should be set out in statutory guidance instead of on the face of secondary legislation (otherwise known as an Order)?

The vast majority agreed

  • The main feedback was that the proposals were sensible and practical, and would allow the reporting duties to evolve more flexibly in line with national policies and strategies.
  • It would provide the required agility for the content of reporting to evolve to take account of emerging issues, challenges, scientific knowledge, experience, etc. Wider feedback was that it would reduce the time and resources required to implement changes to reporting, and enable updates to be applied without requiring a full legal review.

Q6 - Do you agree to the proposed changes to the list of public sector bodies that are required to annually report their emissions?

The vast majority agreed

  • There was broad agreement with the proposed amendments given changes to the public sector landscape over the last five years.
  • There was support for a clear process to be put in place to ensure that the list was reviewed and updated periodically (e.g. annually) to ensure its accuracy.
  • Wider feedback was that the criteria for identifying major players (i.e. large public bodies) should also be reviewed regularly.
  • Suggested additions, amendments and removals are listed in the main document.

Q7 - Do you agree with our proposals for amending the reporting requirements as set out above?

Over half agreed

  • There was broad support for the proposals, but many respondents' specified caveats or points of concern with particular elements.
  • More general comments related to the importance of streamlining the reporting process and making it more efficient. It was considered crucial that reports were sufficiently detailed and provided meaningful and purposeful information and data.
  • Wider feedback expressed support for: adopting good practice principles/standards for monitoring, reporting and verification; developing an integrated and consistent approach to reporting; and improving the reporting platform to ensure it was user-friendly and efficient.
  • The detailed feedback on the proposals (Part 1 to Part 6) is contained in the main report.

Q8 - Do you agree that public sector bodies should each make their own report on emissions reductions publicly available?

The vast majority agreed

  • There was broad agreement that public sector bodies should make their reports publically available. Publishing accessible and meaningful reports would help to increase the accountability and transparency of public sector bodies. Much of the feedback acknowledged the role of reporting in driving climate change action within organisations and across the sector. It would also facilitate knowledge exchange and the sharing of good practice.
  • The importance of key stakeholders and the public being able to access reports quickly and easily was considered important (i.e. high visibility, widely communicated). Consistency of reporting was considered vital.
  • There was strong support for continued access to local and national level information and analysis, including access to all public sector bodies' reports on a single site (i.e. a dedicated national platform for current/previous reports).
  • Areas for improvement included: how the data reported on is being used; the need for easily digestible and user-friendly reports; better data visualisation and more engaging reports.

Q9 – Wider issues raised

  • The main themes to emerge were: The importance of tackling climate change and the role of the public sector; Everyone has a role to play; Guidance, support and resources from the Scottish Government; Cessation of funding for the Sustainable Scotland Network Secretariat; Monitoring and reporting; and Structures to provide a collective voice.



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