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Policy and Legislation

Scotland is committed to achieving a 75% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2045, see Part 1 of the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019.

Delivering these national targets presents huge challenges in terms of the pace of action and the skills and finance required. The public sector is crucial to the implementation of national and local climate policy. Public bodies are also expected to show leadership by continuing to reduce their own emissions quickly – most sectors, including the public sector, will need to reduce emissions close to zero without offsetting for Scotland to meet its national climate change goals.

Climate Action Statutory Framework

The statutory framework for public sector climate action and reporting is outlined below:

  • Part 4 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 places duties on all public bodies relating to climate change. These duties commenced 1 January 2011.
  • Section 44 states that a public body must, in exercising its functions, act:
  • in the way best calculated to contribute to the delivery of Scotland’s national emissions reduction targets (known as ‘mitigation’);
  • in the way best calculated to help deliver Scotland’s statutory climate change adaptation programme;
  • in a way that it considers is most sustainable.

Reporting Statutory Framework

The Climate Change (Duties of Public Bodies: Reporting Requirements) (Scotland) Order 2015 (made under Section 46 of the 2009 Act) requires Schedule 1 Listed Bodies to report annually on climate change duties compliance. The form and content of the annual compliance report is specified in Schedule 2 of the 2015 Order. The 2020 Amendment introduced new questions with effect from April 2021 such that all reports must now also include:

  • where applicable, the body’s target date for achieving zero direct emissions of greenhouse gases, or such other targets that demonstrate how the body is contributing to Scotland achieving its emissions reduction targets;
  • where applicable, targets for reducing indirect emissions of greenhouse gases;
  • how the body will align its spending plans and use of resources to contribute to reducing emissions and delivering its emissions reduction targets;
  • how the body will publish, or otherwise make available, its progress to achieving its emissions reduction targets; and
  • where applicable, what contribution the body has made to helping deliver Scotland’s Climate Change Adaptation Programme.
  • amendments to the 2015 Order include changes to Listed Bodies and to report content, see The Climate Change (Duties of Public Bodies: Reporting Requirements) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020

Enhanced Reporting & Analysis

The 2020 reporting amendments go beyond public bodies’ corporate emissions, widening the reporting scope to encompass procurement and place-based emissions. Scope 3 emissions are currently widely unreported. The calculation of Scope 3 emissions can be a complex and time-consuming process and the resulting figures will have a significant level of uncertainty. However in this area, perfection can be the enemy of progress. The SSN encourages public bodies to start by reporting what is known about their largest procurements and to use their effort proportionality to the scale of emissions. See more here regarding calculating procurement emission and tools.

See here for the session on New Reporting Requirements & Enhanced Analysis at the SSN 2022 conference which discussed:

  • The new reporting requirements
  • The outcomes of enhanced analysis of PBCCD 2020/21 report
  • How to improve existing and future reporting systems
  • How to close the gap between reporting and climate action

Further Information and Guidance