October 9, 2017

Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group response to the Climate Change Bill

“We agree that taking action now, and planning for our future climate will be a net positive for the country, our communities and our economy.” Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group.

Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Climate Change Bill, 22 September 2017. Our response was based on:

  • the combined experience of our Board, whose members all share an interest in climate change and all hold or have held senior positions in a variety of sectors including utilities, financial services, food and drink, tourism, land use and government
  • consultation with 20 businesses and 10 other organisations (including charities and trade organisations) that took part in two facilitated discussions about the Climate Change Bill, in Glasgow and Edinburgh, September 2017.


We applaud the ambition to modernise the Scottish economy and ensure that Scotland is fit for a low- to zero-carbon future. We want businesses that are competitive at a global scale and an economic and cultural landscape open to sustainable, low carbon and circular business and investment.


It is our view that there are certainly opportunities for Scottish businesses, and for our whole economy, around circular economy, renewable energy, water and resource use, low carbon transport and more, all building on our track record of ambitious climate policy.

There are particular opportunities for businesses in:

  • Exportable goods, services and knowledge
  • Transitioning a highly skilled workforce
  • Increasingly educated and savvy consumers and new markets
  • Better employee engagement, loyalty and well-being

With the right investment in infrastructure, skills and training, and a commitment to long-term goals and vision, we believe that a low carbon Scotland will be one of the best places to do sustainable, low carbon, circular business.

What we feel is lacking is a clear plan to engage businesses on how they can contribute and model their activities to help achieve the low carbon transition across the economy.

“Smaller businesses can see the bigger picture but won’t do anything because they’re focussed on the next 6 months. We need to incentivise long-termism.” Consultation attendee

Key challenge

Scotland’s business community, which is strongly weighted to small and medium sized businesses, has yet to engage with the level of change and the transformative nature of change required for near total decarbonisation.

“If we continue to assume that ‘someone else’ will fix the problems for us, we will suffer the same fate as industries that have died, regardless of whichever industry we happen to be in.” Consultation attendee

“Coach businesses so that they accept low carbon also applies to them.” Consultation attendee

Promising start

It is encouraging to see signs of progress in communication around transport proposals, increased spending on research and development, promotion of locally-sourced food and drink etc. which are all welcome. Establishing an advisory group to consider fiscal and other measures to reduce waste and boost the circular economy sounds promising as a starting point. We hope the planned investment in health, education, housing and transport will also be considered as sustained investment in the low carbon economy.

We also hope that economic plans such as Scotland’s response to the Barclay Review, new Planning Bill, new National Manufacturing Institute, Strategic Board for Enterprise and Skills, Trade Envoys, South of Scotland enterprise agency and others will activity seek to maximise Scotland’s potential to seize the competitive edge and steeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the 90% target.

If the low-carbon economic strategy inherent in these different activities is fully teased out and communicated, loud and clear, then businesses will be able to grasp the opportunities and move forward. The 2020 Group would actively support and share such communications – helping to engage businesses, and business leadership, on this new narrative for our economy and future.

However, this plan to engage businesses needs to be implemented quickly and with real momentum. The 2020 Group would welcome the opportunity to work with Scottish Government and other businesses to draft a plan and to facilitate engagement.

“What more do we need to do to make 90% feasible, what does MY business need to do?” Consultation attendee

Critical areas

We are also of the view that there are critical areas that will require urgent attention if the targets are to be met. For example; there is a need to find ways to develop Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which is essential to meet the 90% target, and tackle the harder-to-cut emissions in transport and agriculture.

We need to give Scotland an opportunity to retain existing industrial and manufacturing businesses and jobs as well as attract new investment. We particularly note the need for Scotland’s remaining, carbon intensive industries, petrochemicals and cement, to be engaged on development and use of CCS.

We also need to engage businesses to help decarbonise heat and to improve domestic energy efficiency. There is no plan set out to do so. There is a need to ensure that the key business organisations in Scotland understand what is at stake and communicate the size of the prize effectively with their members and networks. Influence, collaboration and buy-in are required to stimulate leadership on the delivery end of this agenda.

“We need to build corporate social responsibility models that link with climate considerations.” Consultation attendee

Collaboration for effective change

We recognise that there is very good work on sustainability and the low carbon economy happening both in Scotland and globally but we do not see this being shared at the level it will need to be to affect exponential change in our businesses and industries. Shared knowledge, influence, peer-to-peer engagement and networking from corporates to SMEs could help and stimulate real collaboration and partnership.

“We have a lot of innovators: we need to use them.” Consultation attendee

Consultation workshops

Businesses attending our consultation workshops raised many issues and ideas, which were recorded in our consultation response. (Some are quoted here). Three particular themes emerged:

  • The need for better/more communication that starts to bring to the fore what the increased targets mean to businesses (in effect creating a new kind of economy). “Clarity is needed for confident investment.”
  • Simplification of process is needed get real traction and buy-in – from reporting mechanisms to certification standards to accessing support and incentives. While regulation is needed it needs to be collaborative and cross cutting and reward long-termism.
  • “Partnership work is crucial.” Collaboration and partnership are no longer nice-to-haves, they are critical to survival and success. There is an opportunity for business and for everyone else to get this right and show leadership but we need to be pulling in the same direction.

Read our response.

“Role model early adaptors are needed – need to share good practice/leadership.” Consultation attendee