The Scottish Government established the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) in 2008 to help local communities in the transition to a low-carbon society. The fund supports community-led projects which lead to reductions in carbon emissions, and which are designed to leave a sustainable legacy of low-carbon behaviour.

It works in areas such as energy efficiency, sustainable and active travel, reducing and recycling waste, and food growing. As of mid-2020, over 1,150 projects across all Scotland’s 32 local authorities had been awarded CCF grants, with total funding since 2008 exceeding £111 million.

This report considers the evidence for the fund’s impact on the ground, the effectiveness of actions, and how we can monitor success in the future. Emerging findings were captured during the research in a series of interim policy notes, also published here.

The research centres on in-depth case studies of five CCF projects which the team followed for 18 months. The report uses the case study evidence to understand and capture the processes of change supported by the CCF. From this, it draws out lessons on how to facilitate and monitor such impact going forward.

Welcoming the report at the CCF Annual Gathering 2020, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, said:

I thank the research team for all their efforts on the study which, as they presented in one of the break-out sessions at last year’s Gathering, centred on in-depth case studies of five CCF projects.

Its findings and recommendations will help to identify the specific role that community climate action can play in Scotland’s transition to a net zero society and, crucially, in ensuring that we take everyone with us on that journey.


  • The CCF’s community focus allows it to play a unique role in Scotland’s transition to a low-carbon society. This research identifies that CCF projects contribute to Scotland’s transition to a low-carbon society at the community level in two ways:
    • by directly helping people to explore and adopt low-carbon behaviours; and
    • by building community capacity to embed a legacy of continued bottom-up change that can also support larger-scale policy interventions.
  • The CCF’s unique contributions are not adequately captured through the lens of carbon emissions. This echoes findings from earlier reviews of the CCF.
  • Current carbon-focused CCF monitoring and reporting processes present several limitations.
  • The CCF programme faces similar issues to other community empowerment policies. As such, its design could usefully reflect the barriers and opportunities faced by community projects in general.


Moving Beyond Carbon Emissions

  1. The CCF programme should seek to address all the elements of Climate Change Engagement.

Better Capturing and Reporting CCF Success

  1. We suggest reporting along the lines of the proposed Climate Change Engagement framework.
  2. Reporting processes need to be realistic.
  3. It is important to separate supporting and assessment functions in the reporting process.

Making the Most of the CCF’s Community Focus

  1. CCF projects could be given more guidance and support to identify and respond to their communities’ specific characteristics.
  2. The CCF funding approach should reflect diverse community capacities.
  3. The CCF could empower projects to be adaptive over the course of the funding period.