ClimateXChange commissioned Changeworks and the Centre for Energy Policy, University of Strathclyde to review existing European regulatory models and identify learning from each that are relevant to the Scottish context. The outputs will add to a body of existing research which will inform the Scottish Government’s proposals regarding regulation in the coming years.

This report details the findings from a review of seven European DH regulatory models, including a contextualised evaluation of each model. The research used evidence gathered through a literature review and interviews. 

As a product of the research, four key components of an effective regulatory system for district heating are identified as:

  • Long term planning and commitment to DH development
  • Successful use of tools which stimulate market development and investment in the sector
  • Co-ordination of national and municipal governments, and scope for industry interests to have a say in certain regulatory issues
  • Flexibility to allow for innovation, and account for market changes

These are the key lessons to be considered for the introduction of district heating regulation in Scotland.

This report looks at different approaches to modelling energy efficiency within TIMES, the whole energy system modelling framework used by the Scottish Government to inform energy and climate change policy decisions. The findings are based on six different energy efficiency scenarios for residential heating.

This has two objectives:

  1. To identify different approaches for energy efficiency scenario modelling in TIMES, and provide an assessment of strengths and limitations of each modelling approach.
  2. To give recommendations on how to use TIMES effectively for energy efficiency policy analysis.

There is no single energy efficiency scenario which is superior to the others, as each focuses on different policy targets which could come into conflict with each other. For example, the results of some scenarios prioritise energy efficiency improvements whereas others prioritise cost reduction or emission reductions. Policy makers should understand the compromises involved in using each of these scenarios and prioritise certain indicators over others.

As many of you know, after six and a half years in ClimateXChange I am leaving for pastures new. This ‘moment of change’ seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the evolution of ClimateXChange since it was established in the summer of 2011, and the journey we have travelled together.

Way back in September 2011, my first piece of work in CXC was for the Scottish Government housing analyst team. The rather grandly named ‘Housing Futures’ project provided some initial data and analysis to support development of the second Report on Proposals and Policies for climate change action. It was a great introduction to working across science and policy.

At that time, members of CXC and our policy colleagues alike would talk about our ‘call-down service’, sometimes flippantly described as ‘the Bat Phone’. The idea was that policy officials would send us research questions (which they themselves had defined) out of-the blue and CXC would mobilise our research network to provide a fast response. And there was a whole set of bureaucratic procedures established for submitting and processing a request. Outside of CXC’s three core research workstreams, this call-down facility was assumed to be the principal mode of working for CXC. In practice, there were very few such requests – even in the early days it was clear that CXC’s real value is in relationship-building between policy and research communities, co-development of research questions and co-production of insights and new knowledge.

Six years later, CXC is a smaller, more effective centre with a balance between expertise across the Scottish Research Institutes and Universities, able to cover the whole waterfront of climate change and energy policy issues of relevance to the Scottish Government. We no longer work in unwieldy research workstreams, but through a series of linked projects. Through these, we have provided expert advice on issues ranging from on-farm slurry management techniques, to the power flow effects of balancing local electricity supply and demand. From understanding the likely impacts of climate change on migratory birds, to evaluating the effectiveness of policy designs for energy efficiency. We have built a strong network of close connections between CXC researchers and Scottish Government officials. And work with stakeholders from across UK Research Council- and EU-funded research programmes, Scottish and UK government departments, public agencies, industry and the third sector. CXC experts sit on government advisory groups, organise international conferences and provide evidence to the Scottish and UK Parliaments. Our influence extends beyond anything I could have imagined back in 2011.

CXC is usually described as a distributed centre of expertise. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a community of people committed to providing the best evidence into the policy making process. It’s a place where new ideas are shared and learning is embedded in practice. It’s a model of working at the policy-research boundary, the expression of a positive commitment to doing science-into-policy better.

So, it’s been a fantastic journey, but one that for me has come to its end. I take up a new position at the Centre for Energy Policy, University of Strathclyde on 29 January. At the risk of pushing the journey metaphor way too far: thanks for being a travelling companion, and may our paths cross again soon!

The CXC Directorate and Secretariat would like to say a big Thank You to Ragne for all her work, and wish her all the best in her role at University of Strathclyde.

This report summarises greenhouse gas emissions target frameworks for countries known to have statutory and / or highly ambitious climate change targets.

The authors looked at commitments that have been made by Sweden, Mexico, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, New Zealand and Ireland. A summary of Catalonia’s climate change legislation was also included.

Key findings

  • Internationally, a wide range of approaches have been adopted to deal with climate change legislation and targets
  • Approaches adopted are unique to a country’s own context and circumstances
  • All the countries we looked at use their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) as the basis of target-setting and progress monitoring
  • No evidence was found of statutory annual emissions reduction targets from any of the countries that were reviewed

This blog was first published on Academy of Government @ Edinburgh University

2017 will go down as the year when Scotland unequivocally nailed its colours to the mast of climate change action, with not one, not two, but three comprehensive policy commitments on climate change. The draft Climate Change Plan sets out a programme of policies that aim to bring our emissions down by 66% by 2032. The draft Energy Strategy paints a vision for Scotland’s energy future that is fundamentally decarbonised. And in proposals for a Climate Change Bill the Scottish Government is consulting on a new statutory target for a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. All of this sends a very clear signal that Scotland intends to become a net-zero carbon nation – perhaps within a generation, certainly within two.

But what do we mean by ‘Scotland’ here? Who are the people doing the intending?

Surveys consistently show that majority of the Scottish public believes that action should be taken on climate change. In the wake of news that Trump planned to take the US out of the Paris Agreement, 70% of Scots wanted to see climate change legislation retained.[i] Around 50% of people in Scotland see climate change as an immediate and urgent problem[ii] and 68% want the Government to invest in projects that cut emissions[iii].

But what about the 30% who feel climate legislation should be scrapped? Or the 50% who do not see climate change as an urgent issue? And are all of the 68% who want more Government investment really prepared to see higher public sector borrowing to fund that investment; or indeed to pay for it through higher taxes/bills? What proportion would be prepared to invest themselves – to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, for example? The academic literature is littered with studies that show that people very often do not turn personal belief into personal action – the so-called value-action gap [iv].

The Scottish Government itself recognises the need for ‘behavioural change’ to accompany top-down policy prescription if we are to achieve the huge emissions reductions set out in legislation. The ISM tool supports policy makers to think through all the factors, Individual, Social and Material, that influence people’s behaviours. ‘ISM’ has been used in formulating some policy interventions, but it is by no means embedded. Some four years after the launch of the ISM tool in 2013, the draft Climate Change Plan states:

The Scottish Government has used the ISM approach in various ways to support policy
development, including:

  • Running smaller internal workshops to initially explore behaviours…
  • Delivering ISM workshops with broad groups of stakeholders… to gather wider views on the behavioural challenge, investigating the current landscape and identifying potential barriers and gaps.
  • Following up the ISM workshops with a small working group approach focused on action planning and delivery, using insight (potential barriers and gaps) from initial workshops.
  • Using the ISM framework to support literature reviews of the behavioural challenge.”

This hardly suggests that ‘behaviours thinking’ was at the heart of the policy development process for the Plan.

But I would argue that having a focus on ‘behaviours’ is itself limiting. The ‘people bit’ of climate action is about more than an aggregate of individuals changing their behaviours. It’s about social change. The decarbonisation of Scotland will have massive impacts on people’s lives, from changing how we travel about to restructuring the jobs market. Some of these changes will happen slowly. Others will be faster but no less profound – a baby born today will grow up never having sat behind the wheel of a petrol car.

Although it is still sotto voce, there is an awareness on the part of the Scottish Government that the low carbon transition entails a fundamental social transition. In announcing the new £60m Innovation Fund a fortnight ago, the First Minister said that she wants Scotland to “embrace social changes that will reduce our emissions” (my emphasis). The draft Energy Strategy includes commitments to deepening public engagement and to “involve people in the decisions that affect them”.

So, who is doing the intending? Is ‘Scotland’ really up for all the changes that deep decarbonisation will bring? Based on survey data, the answer seems to be yes. But in fact we simply don’t know. That being the case, we should support the Scottish Government to go beyond the ‘behaviour change’ narrative, and make explicit the social change that’s so fundamental to Scotland’s decarbonisation.

[i] Survey conducted by YouGov for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit

[ii] Scottish Government’s Key Environment Statistics 2016

[iii] Survey for WWF Scotland

[iv] For a quick summary of the value-action gap, see the Climate Change chapter of the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (2015)

Against a backdrop of political uncertainty on many fronts – not least in global climate change policy – the UK Committee on Climate Change convened a conference towards the end of 2016 to reflect on the messages coming out of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Evidence Report, published earlier in the year.

The event brought together climate change adaptation researchers, research funders, other experts, policy makers and research users to look at future climate risk and adaptation priorities across the UK. ClimateXChange was one of a group of Scottish participants.

The Evidence Report itself was a highly collaborative project involving over 80 partners, including ClimateXChange. It was collated in preparing the Climate Change Risk Assessment published last week by Defra. The document sets out a number of challenges for the adaptation community, particularly in filling gaps in our understanding of the risks and gaps in our knowledge about the best routes to action. Now is the time to identify ways to address those challenges – so that we are better prepared for the next Climate Change Risk Assessment due in 2022. The Committee on Climate Change event was an important first step in setting out an agenda for specific projects to fill those gaps. The next step is for research providers and funders to work together to realise those ideas

For ClimateXChange, the key next step is to identify and act on the critical knowledge gaps for progress on adaptation in Scotland. The very wide range of issues highlighted in the Evidence Report – from uncertainty around the risks of overheating in hospitals to the need to understand compound impacts on critical infrastructure – is itself a challenge: how should we prioritise our activity and resources in light of this sweeping and complex set of issues. To this end, ClimateXChange will over the next two months be working with policy colleagues and partners from right across our research community to identify the really key evidence needs for Scotland. We are working up three issues papers to help us do this. And we will be consulting widely with expert voices outside of ClimateXChange too. If you would like to be a part of that conversation, please email me!

Read more about the ASC conference and outputs on the Climate Change Committee website.

Native woodland adaptation to climate change has been identified as an area that needs further investigation. ClimateXChange’s work in this area has so far had three outputs:

  • A workshop on Native Woodlands Adaptation to Climate Change in August 2012. The workshop brought together key stakeholders to explore what we know about the risks to native woodlands from climate change, their capacity to respond, and appropriate management responses. It also  considered the scope for providing greater support for woodland managers in relation to climate change, and outlined some of the key issues that will need to be addressed to enhance native woodlands’ adaptive capacity.
  • An Issues Paper, which develops some of the ideas from the workshop in order to stimulate further discussion and promote agreement about what the further policy-making, management and research priorities should be. The Issues Paper sets out the main issues around: the consequences for native woodlands of climate change; their capacity to respond; and possible management strategies, and poses some open questions to stimulate discussion.
  • A report exploring how the principles of the Flexible Adaptation Pathways approach could be applied to native woodland adaptation. The report lists a comprehensive set of options for biodiversity adaptation in Scottish native woodlands.