Rapid response to changing policy environment: the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

The overall management provided by CXC ensured the project ran smoothly and in a timely manner. There was excellent communication with all parties, with the end result being of a high quality and accessible to a variety of audiences.

Scottish Government policy official

The challenge

When Covid-19 pandemic restrictions came into force in March 2020, a range of behaviours relevant to Scotland’s net-zero ambition changed – from travel and home heating to shopping and socialising. Overnight, measuring the impact of these changes, and how people felt about the new behaviours imposed on them, became important across several policy areas.

While strict lockdown restrictions were still in place, we scoped, procured and kicked off several projects looking at the pandemic’s impact of from different angles. These included business travel behaviours, the likelihood of net-zero behaviours continuing as restrictions eased, and the health emergency’s lessons for climate emergency communication.

Procurement with clarity and flexibility

For the ClimateXChange team the additional asks for pandemic-related research came at a particularly busy time – with the new financial year seeing the start of a number of projects. In parallel, the ClimateXChange Secretariat and all our research providers were adjusting to working from home ourselves.

In this situation, the relationships we have developed with Scottish Government teams were critical in understanding policy needs, how our resource could be used most effectively, and the critical factors for success. Our clear procurement procedures meant that policy colleagues could focus on the research aims, knowing that our funding routes and specification templates could be used flexibly to initiate projects and get work underway quickly without compromising standards.

Very impressed with assistance taking a not clearly defined requirement to something that is productive and useful, particularly in areas where there is no tradition of climate policy.

Scottish Government Policy Official

Research as restrictions changed

Across a range of projects we looked at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures as the pandemic unfolded and restrictions changed:

  • A snapshot of employers’ experience of their staff working from home / flexible working, business travel and commuting before the COVID-19 pandemic, during the first lockdown in March-June 2020, and as recovery began. The project sought to develop an understanding of employers’ long-term travel plans and intentions; identify what barriers and enablers currently exist to delivering more home working and sustainable travel; and what measures would support employers in facilitating this shift.
  • Identifying the potential impact the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has had on how the Scottish public understand and respond to climate change messaging and narratives. This learning can support a green recovery from the pandemic by using language and framing that speaks to people’s values, generates a positive impact on key audiences and encourages the action needed.
  • Following a group of people in Scotland from different backgrounds and with different daily routines to understand how behaviours changed, exploring people’s attitudes towards the behaviour changes they have experienced, and analysing the factors influencing whether these changes are sustained after restrictions eased.

These insights fed directly into discussions about a green recovery. Longer terms, the projects will help inform the approach to shifting behaviours in a net-zero direction to respond to the global climate emergency.