Scotland has a reputation as a climate change leader, meeting ambitious emission reduction targets ahead of schedule.

However, the changes in the electricity system to date have been the “easy” part of the climate change response. Over the coming 15 years the Scottish Government is aiming for radical improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings; phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars; and increasing the ownership of the energy system by local communities; whilst also retaining a secure, resilient energy system.

At the same time the impacts of climate change will become more evident. While communities, organisations and businesses increasingly respond to current and future climate risks through building the business case for action and developing effective adaptation plans, we need to see a step change in cross sector action that delivers a ‘climate ready Scotland’.

  1. Effective climate change policies
  2. Whole system approach
  3. Public engagement
  4. Social transition and behaviour change
Effective climate change policies

How do we know which different policy options will deliver? There is a particular pressure on climate change policies to deliver results on a short timescale.

Emission reductions in Scotland's electricity sector have been 'easy' with large cuts resulting from a shift in how we generate electricity, now largely based on renewables.

Source Committee on Climate Change

Whole system approach

The Scottish Government has adopted a ‘whole system’ approach for its Climate Change Plan and Energy Strategy, across all parts of society and the economy.

This puts the emphasis on coordinating the approach across all policy areas.

The core principles in Scotland's Energy Strategy are:

Public engagement

It is a key democratic right and responsibility to be part of decision making processes – locally and nationally.

However, traditional consultations may not deliver outcomes that people see as fair and representative. What methods would deliver better results when making decisions on contentious issues?

Social transitions and behaviour change

Reducing the impacts of our everyday behaviours across energy use, travel, consumption and waste are central to addressing climate change.

The Scottish Government developed a framework for thinking about how policy affects our daily behaviours – the so-called ISM tool:

Whilst it is useful to think – and design policies – in terms of how interventions affect individual behaviours, researchers and government are increasingly focusing on how we can achieve low carbon transformations at the level of society as a whole.

This is inevitably a more complex challenge than just seeking to nudge individuals’ behaviours along, and involves taking a systems approach and working across sectors and communities.

 Read about What Works Scotland

We work on innovative approaches and developing evaluation methods. We open up spaces to develop and test new ways of doing ‘joined up policy making’ and working across sectors.

  1. Effective climate change policies
  2. Whole system approach
  3. Public engagement
  4. Social transitions and behaviour change
Effective climate change policies

To be effective, climate change policies need to strike a balance between stability to allow stakeholders to adapt and respond, and change in light of new evidence and changing circumstances. Our research includes policy assessments and developing evaluation procedures.

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Whole system approach

We help facilitate research and debate about what a whole system approach involves and how it should be developed, among researchers, policy makers and practitioners across sectors.

Feature projects
Public engagement

We support the Scottish Government in testing methods to design more inclusive decision making processes. This is not a particular challenge for climate change, and we work with colleagues from a range of disciplines.

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Social transitions and behaviour change

We have provided advice on how the ISM tool can be used to best effect and worked with government and stakeholders to use the approach in policy design.

Featured projects

Read about the ISM tool