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Place-based Climate Action

Place-based Climate Action

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act places duties on all public bodies to tackle climate change through exercising their various functions. The public bodies play vital roles in enabling Scotland’s just transition to net zero, improving climate resilience, and to securing wider benefits from people and places.

To find out more about place based climate adaptation see the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme and the Adaptation Scotland website.

Public bodies are encouraged to report their place-based action on climate change in their annual mandatory climate change reports in the ‘wider influence’ section.

Public Body Functions to Tackle Climate Change

Public bodies have a wide range of functions that should be used to address climate change. These include spatial and transport planning, place-making, investment, infrastructure development, economic development, funding, regulation, communications, education, community development, and partnership development and facilitation. At a local authority area level, community planning is a statutory requirement to support and enable community empowerment and place-making. Regional economy partnerships, land use partnerships and growth deals are all important. Local authorities have planning and financing powers, and at national and regional levels a range of public bodies have powers and responsibilities for planning, development, investment and public engagement. All of these functions need to be brought to bear to enable Scotland to increase the scale and pace of climate action.

Understanding control versus influence on emissions.

This report by ECCI for UK100 provides a useful mapping of the control and influence that local authorities have on place-based emissions.

Policy drivers

Scotland’s Climate Change Plan, along with the UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy, contain policies and commitments for action across the range of emission source in the national emissions inventories. This include policies and programmes on energy, transport, waste and land use, and policies relating to place-making such as housing, planning, economic development and infrastructure.

Policy commitments that are driving forward place-based climate action include policies on Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies, National Planning Framework 4, policies on active travel, car journey reduction targets, the development of concepts such as the 20 Minute Neighbourhoods, use of the Place Standard Tool, and the Scottish Government’s response to the Scottish Infrastructure Commission.

The policies in Scotland’s Climate Change Plan provide the policy framework for action at local authority level to deliver local climate action aligned to national targets. Locally determined contributions to the national climate change plans form the basis of local area or place based climate action.

Rules, Tools, Data and Capacity Building

Local authority area wide emissions action is guided by the international Greenhouse Gas Protocol on Community Scale Emissions (the GPC).

The Scottish Government has developed guidance on carbon in buildings and infrastructure, based on the PAS2080 standards.

Place-based Climate Rules, Tools and Capacity

ECCI published the Carbon Scenario Tool report which provides an excellent analysis of the key principles, data sets, tools and capacity issues relating to place-based climate action.

The Place-based Climate Action Network, is a key multi-year research initiative. The University of Edinburgh and the City of Edinburgh Council are the lead partners in Scotland. The programme is supporting the development of local area Net Zero Routemaps, informed by the work of the Leeds Climate Commission.

Data on Place based emissions

  • Emissions data is available to inform local authority place-based climate action. The UK Government provides the Local Authority GHG dataset, which also contains a sub-set of data on ‘emissions under the influence of local authorities’. This data is released annually, and is useful to provide a common data starting point which can be supplemented by local data.
  • In 2021 the local government Improvement Service integrated the LA GHG datasets into the Local Government Benchmarking Framework.
  • Leeds University has developed the Carbon.Place tool that provides emissions profiles for local data zones of ~1,000 households across England. (Link to COP26 event??)

Tools to support place based climate action

There are a range of tools that are developing to help support place-based climate action. Many consultancies have their own tools, based on GPC standards. A summary analysis of some key tools is provided in the Carbon Scenario Tool referenced earlier.

A number of tools are available, or are being developed. These include:

· Place Standard Tool with a Climate Lens (due late September 2022)

Building capacity and developing good practice

Many local authorities in Scotland are taking a planned approach to place based emissions, focusing on the emissions within their local authority area.


  • SSN Conference 2023 breakout session, delivered by staff from Energy Systems Catapult, an independent, not-for-profit organisation, which accelerates the deacarbonisation of the UK's energy system. It explored the importance of a whole energy system place-based approach and demonstrated how effective stakeholder engagement can support this clean transition. Read here.
  • Ricardo event on place-based emissions ‘Climate Emergency – Why the Number Matter’ (May 2019)
  • Place-based Climate Action plenary at the SSN Conference, May 2022, (link embedded in Conference Report)