Analysis of Scottish Local Authority Climate Change policies

It is roundly agreed that 2020 - 2030 is the decade where intense action to drive down carbon emissions is required.

It is also generally agreed that, while welcome and significant progress has been made in reduction of carbon emissions associated with electricity generation, future actions will be more complicated. For example, the Committee on Climate Change reports highlight the need for further improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings, changes to low carbon heating systems, modal shifts and decarbonisation of transport, and changes to land use and to wider patterns of waste management, recycling and resource use.

All of these changes will involve significant lifestyle and consumption choices and changes for individuals, households & businesses. Research papers agree that local authorities are at the epicentre of this change, partly in terms of demonstrating good practice, but much more importantly in putting together those frameworks which will guide, support and enable residents and businesses to implement the scale and speed of action needed.

Creating these effective frameworks for each area of emission will require specific expertise within the local authority, rolling them out and managing them will require significant capacity and partnerships. Concerns with the paucity of data and detail within one local authority strategy promoted the authors to explore the extent to which other local authority strategies across Scotland met the challenges of decarbonising their authority area. It also raised questions about the extent to which the Scottish Government supports local authority capacity and scrutinises their plans, to ensure that, taken together, local plans will deliver national legal carbon reduction targets.

This research was therefore undertaken to understand the range and quality of local authority climate change strategies across Scotland. Whilst we found some isolated elements of good practice in the plans reviewed, the holistic picture is that largely these strategies are a collection of high level ambitions with no scientific methodology, or route maps to achieve them. A related aim was to understand what support and scrutiny the Scottish Government gave these plans so that they could be the best they could be. The Scottish Government argues that through its Sustainable Scotland Network programme, this knowledge and capacity is provided, and is sufficient.

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