New report by CERG on how Scotland can accelerate climate action

2 September 2021
Scotland’s Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG) has today launched a report outlining the key actions the Scottish Government must take now to accelerate their response to the climate emergency. 

Stefanie O'Gorman

Director of Economics - Cities & Regeneration
T: 07766 337 573

Ramboll’s Director of Sustainable Economics and steering group member of CERG Stefanie O’Gorman and colleagues provide further insight into the key elements of Scotland’s transition.

While CERG welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitments in support of a just transition to net zero and a green recovery, there is no time to lose. The Government must demonstrate how commitments will be delivered at pace, working in partnership with the public and private sector.

The 12 key actions in CERG’s independent report clearly outline the practical, workable priorities needed in this vital year of COP26 to reduce emissions, create new industries and permanent jobs, clean air, and healthy communities, while tackling inequality. Scotland’s first citizen’s assembly focused on climate change, Scotland’s Climate Assembly, recently issued its latest report which shows strong public appetite for bold, transformative actions.

Summary of the 12 immediate actions

1. Transform four cities with a whole community approach to net-zero

  • By 2022 a minimum of four cities to have developed business cases for large scale transformation of places involving buildings, transport, and greenspaces to reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts, blending public -private investment.
  • Set an aspiration to make every Scottish city ‘vehicle emission free’ as far as possible by 2030 through financial support and advice, taken forward in partnership with city local authorities and transport providers.
  • Create a ‘Net-zero Test’ for all financing tools. Ensure that initiatives such as the Green Growth Accelerator, and others developed through Scottish National Investment Bank, have strict criteria and monitoring to ensure every business plan delivers significant climate emission reductions and supports adaptation to climate risks.

Stefanie O'Gorman commented, “A high proportion of Scotland’s emissions come from cities, so faster progress must be made in all cities for Scotland to meet its climate targets. Transportation is a very high producer of carbon emissions and an area where there have been minimal reductions in the last 20 years, hence our aspiration for every Scottish city to become vehicle emission free by 2030. 

“A massive scale up of ambition and resources is needed to transform our cities into thriving places of low carbon living and working, with Government, the private sector and civic society all needing to play their part. We believe this recommendation will support the just transition through the creation of jobs and services, increased productivity and connectivity, improved health and wellbeing for residents, and will make Scottish cities attractive for inward investment and migration.”

2. Make greener non-domestic buildings to work, study & relax in

  • Cleaner heating: Introduce energy performance standards in 2022 and implement from 2025.
  • Signal phase out dates for new oil and LPG boilers from 2025 and from 2030 for gas boilers. 
  • Triple the scale and budget of the Energy Efficiency Business Support scheme, linked to helping 
    compliance with forthcoming regulation. This is targeted at SMEs and includes advice and access to zero interest loan plus cashback. 
  • Introduce a non-domestic boiler scrappage scheme and make business rates reliefs contingent on improvements to the energy performance of a building when expanding or improving a property.

Vincent Farrell, Energy engineering specialist, said “Improving the performance of our non-domestic building stock offers a pathway to rapidly reducing carbon emissions, as well as providing excellent anchor load opportunities around which centralised heat networks can be established and grown. In terms of the wider picture we need to have a joined-up approach to our energy networks, to ensure this we need the legislative levers to deliver integrated energy networks are tapped into across regions”.

3. Upskill the workforce to create Scotland’s net zero and climate-adapted future

  • Increase the number, diversity & flexibility of low carbon work-based learning opportunities for school leavers, graduates, and the existing workforce, with long-term funding for programmes.
  • Develop new climate-relevant standards and modules for apprenticeships with incentives to choose green pathways and greater flexibility in access to learning opportunities. All apprenticeships to include mandatory climate literacy skills.
  • Support businesses (SMEs) to plan their transition to net-zero, by providing a guaranteed pipeline of low carbon work, and simplifying and increasing access to opportunities and tax incentives to reskill/upskill their workforce with green funding uplifts and diversity bursaries

Stefanie added, “while progress in Scotland is showing signs of promise we need a real boost to deliver a whole sector approach, which would undoubtedly deliver traction and aid the transition”.

4. Mobilise public sector expenditure to address the climate emergency

  • Enforce the incorporation of carbon and whole life costing into all public sector investment and spending decisions by 2024.
  • Demand and drive early adoption of best practice procurement standards through increasingly 
    ambitious targets and conditions within government funding criteria. Show public sector leadership in decarbonising its buildings and circular procurement.
  • Ensure robust public sector net-zero action plans mandate the purchase of low carbon, circular 
    economy products and services.

Shane Hughes, Carbon Consulting Lead, said “This is where the Government can quickly enact change, we have seen this from the huge uptick in demand from clients wanting support to develop their Net Zero Carbon Reduction Plans following the announcement of the PPN06/21 (Procurement Policy Note). We know the Scottish Government want to go further than the current requirements under PPN06/21, which currently requires a plan. The ambition must be to ensure the plan is tracked and delivered upon”.

5. Unite central and local Government to deliver on net zero and create resilient places

  • Negotiate and agree joint net-zero delivery framework identifying roles, necessary funding, and resources within 12 months. 
  • Identify and deploy mechanisms to support delivery such as regional hubs of expertise, collective approach to de-risk projects, and finance rules which account for carbon. 
  • Liaise with Audit Scotland to consider their role in raising the climate emergency as a corporate priority in public sector organisations

Stefanie added, “Local actors must be properly empowered and supported to deliver the actions required, which is why we are championing a joint net zero framework between central government and local authorities. It will require cross discipline execution with people coming together across different departments to drive delivery, but this is not an insurmountable challenge. We have witnessed the dynamic way people came together during the Covid Pandemic to rapidly support a particular aspect of the pandemic response. We need to take this emergency thinking to our climate response and bring those delivering solutions along the journey”. 

6. Clean up Scotland’s City Region and Growth Deals 

  • Working with city region deal partners, apply the government’s ‘active carbon management’ guidance to each deal and agree amendments to align projects with net-zero and just transition goals by June 2022.
  • The guidance should include alignment with adaptation plans to ensure the choice and design of projects will help us adapt to climate impacts in the future.
  • The guidance should be used to inform infrastructure spending decisions starting with the 2022/23 Draft Scottish Budget and including the Infrastructure Investment Plan and public procurement.

Stefanie added, “Large infrastructure projects present a real opportunity to be nature positive, climate resilient and support wider decarbonisation goals. By proactively applying active carbon management and Biodiversity Metrics for example, we can ensure these schemes do not lock us into a high carbon future and that the opportunities they provide to support climate action are identified and realised in the schemes delivery phase”.

7. Make the climate emergency a guiding principle in all planning decisions 

  • Issue a Chief Planner letter to local authorities to emphasise the importance of addressing the climate emergency in all planning decisions including Scottish Government intentions to call in major developments where climate impacts have not been properly considered. 
  • Work with local authorities to develop the necessary capacity building and training to ensure a planning system fit for net-zero is established by 2022. 
  • Immediate review of energy consenting process (as per Climate Change Plan) by Ministers responsible for energy and planning to accelerate decision making timescales for renewable energy projects.

Stefanie commented, “Changing our approach to planning neighbourhoods to enable people to live, work and learn in communities close to home is an important strategy for climate action, by enabling communities to adopt active travel, decreases motor vehicle dependency, and improves quality of life. Ramboll’s GIS team built a mapping analysis model that showed that many communities across Scotland have the required services and infrastructure that, with sometimes minimal intervention, would allow them to be 20-minute neighbourhoods in both urban and rural settings. But currently the planning system does not provide the right incentives or demands which will realise these opportunities.”  

8. Solve real and specific financing challenges to secure private sector investment

  • ‘Private sector solutions incubators’ are fully resourced and mandated by Government by 2022, to define routes to reduce reliance on public sector support and to transition key technologies and approaches to becoming fully commercial and subsidy-free. 
  • Finance demonstrator projects in at least 3 priority sectors within 12 months. 
  • Provide appropriate project pipelines and adapt public spending policies as required to better leverage private capital.

James MacGregor, Senior Economist at Ramboll commented, “We welcome the aspiration to ‘Solve real and specific financing challenges to secure private sector investment’. Ramboll is working globally on sustainable financing and are seeing the implementation of national governments’ aspirations for net zero in other nations. We therefore know that Scotland can capitalise on its global reputation for innovation and collaboration to develop and deploy new net zero financial instruments to support the coming decade’s just transition.”

9. Incentivise climate and nature friendly farming now

  • Publish a vision and proposal for a new system of rural support and a detailed roadmap to provide the certainty, support and payments required to transition farming businesses and practices as soon as possible. 
  • Evolve and expand the Agricultural Transformation Programme to a 5 year £100million /yr fund to cover the additional capital, training and advice needed to help farmers and land managers make the transition to low carbon, nature friendly farming. 
  • Realign, diversify and scale-up the farm advisory service to advise on resource use, carbon and nature value farming and production.

10. Drive adoption of sustainable, healthy climate-friendly diets

  • Develop a definition, criteria, and public guidance on climate-friendly, sustainable, and healthy diets within the next 12 months. 
  • Test and implement the guidance through public procurement. 
  • Establish a multi-year programme of engagement with the public, farmers and food producers and processors to apply the guidance and ensure the ‘Sustainably Scottish’ brand includes climate-friendly criteria. 

Katherine Theobald, one of Ramboll’s climate champions who is helping empower, inform and support employees make low carbon choices through our membership with Count us In, said, “in a few short months Ramboll’s UK employees pledges to reduce food waste, eat more plants and more seasonally equate to 12,000kg of CO2 saved. We have seen great enthusiasm to make a difference, and it’s clear that through support, information and guidance you can make a material impact very quickly” 

11. Maximise natural solutions to mitigate and adapt to the climate emergency on land and at sea 

  • Commit to a ban on the extraction of peat for horticulture and speed up the rate of peatland restoration. 
  • Prioritise the expansion, restoration, and sustainable management of native woodland, and take immediate action to reduce pressures on marine habitats already known to be important carbon sinks. 
  • Create and test viable investable natural capital projects that achieve climate change and biodiversity targets and build ecosystem resilience whilst ensuring the benefits are felt widely by local communities.

Vikki Patton, Ramboll’s Biodiversity Net Gain UK Lead said, “Good quality, biodiverse habitats are crucial to our climate and our survival. We need to ensure expansion and restoration of our natural capital creates these quality habitats. Our actions should be underpinned by appropriate metrics to ensure positive net changes, while harnessing nature-based solutions within these changes. This is how we will deliver the best outcomes for biodiversity and achieve climate change targets”.  

12. Bring all citizens to the heart of decisions about how we respond to the climate emergency

  • Regular leadership briefings to the nation in the run up to COP26 and beyond, on the climate crisis and the Scottish Government’s progress in driving action to net-zero and a green recovery, using well recognized, publicly meaningful metrics. 
  • Publish a substantive and cross-Governmental response to the 81 specific recommendations of Scotland’s Climate Assembly, and host media and public events to debate the Assembly’s ‘Call to Action’ to engage all people (from school age upwards) in a dialogue about Scotland’s net-zero future. 
  • Invest resources for regional and local institutions to apply deliberative approaches to engage civic society in planning for the future of their communities and places.

Stefanie concluded by saying, “The need for empowering and inspiring people to take action cuts across everything. The process of engagement to share information but also co-creation of solutions with local people are critical components to the success of our transition. The Citizens Assembly demonstrates the value realised by the investment in engagement. We need to see proactive and deliberative approaches to engagement becoming the norm.”

Read the full report



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