The Carbon Neutral Island project will support six Scottish islands to become carbon neutral by 2040. It will support islands to run on 100% renewable energy, create circular economies, and explore more sustainable transport options.

This research explores the available data for climate change action on Scottish islands, especially in relation to climate accounting exercises and good practices in dealing with the climate change emergency.

Main findings
  • Currently, there is not a consistent approach across Scottish Islands to GHG accounting, and no complete GHG inventories exist at the individual island level.
  • Most GHG emissions estimates focus on energy (including buildings and transport) and miss out key sectors such as land use, forestry and agriculture.
  • The unique challenges associated with islands, while requiring a tailored mitigation approach, also show their suitability as test beds for the development, trial and deployment of emerging technologies appropriate for decarbonisation strategies.
  • Both in Scotland and across Northern Europe there are significant commonalities between the barriers being addressed and sector priorities in projects delivered. The potential for knowledge sharing and adapting successful projects to local purposes provides a resource with significant potential. However, it must incorporate a place-based approach and be suited to local characteristics.
  • Financial support within the Scottish Island context needs to connect community-level issues in peripheral islands with the planning agendas of local authorities and central government. Scottish islands’ atypical characteristics are often not fully appreciated and considered.
  • It is clear that a one size fits all approach for climate finance is not appropriate in the Scottish Island context due to their unique characteristics such as main emission sources and population size.
  • Small islands can house cohesive communities, which support effective working towards shared climate goals. Thus, community funding can be used as a building block for implementing mitigation measures and increasing community-level adaptive capacity.

A key output of the project was a set of databases, available alongside this report, that capture information on the three topics outlined above. This resource can be used by the Scottish Government in implementing the Carbon Neutral Island project, but also by island local authorities and communities as they chart a course, and take actions towards net zero.

This study contrasts and compares how jurisdictions develop and monitor their strategic plans for achieving greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. This is useful insight as the Scottish Government develops plans to meet the targets in the Scottish Climate Change Act.

The study looked at 16 jurisdictions (12 national and four sub-national). Of these, eight national and sub-national jurisdictions – Belgium (including Flanders and Wallonia), Germany (including Baden Württemberg), Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden – were then reviewed in more detail. These were selected based on various criteria, including the level of ambition in their climate plans, the modelling approach used, sub-national links and innovative approaches taken.

Main findings:
  • Only two of the eight jurisdictions have either legislated, or are legislating for, a net zero target.
  • Some have expressed their GHG emission reduction targets as an absolute economy-wide percentage reduction of all GHGs compared to a 1990 baseline. However, there are cases where jurisdictions have chosen to exclude certain sectors from the economy-wide targets being set.
  • When setting a 2050 GHG emissions reduction target, most jurisdictions have set a 2030 target to act as a stepping stone along the way.
  • All jurisdictions had common elements, for example quantitative assessment of emission reduction potential and the associated costs.
  • Jurisdictions would typically enter into political decision-making process which involves engagement with their political parties, key industry players, civil society and academia.
  • Jurisdictions identified the importance of a clear governance and institutional set-up to ensure implementation and regular review of the climate plan. For most jurisdictions, the implementation was led by the Environment Ministry, with support from several other ministries.