We have a new website go to gov.scot

Public Bodies Duties

Part 4 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act places duties on public bodies relating to climate change. The duties on the face of the Act (section 44) require that a public body must, in exercising its functions, act:

  • in the way best calculated to contribute to delivery of the Act's emissions reduction targets;
  • in the way best calculated to deliver any statutory adaptation programme; and
  • in a way that it considers most sustainable.

The duties came into force on 1 January 2011 and apply to all 'public bodies', defined as a Scottish public authority within the meaning of section 3(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (as amended). The Scottish Information Commissioner website contains information on Scottish public authorities.

The Act also allows Ministers, by Order, to impose other climate change duties, to require reports on compliance with climate change duties, and to designate one or more bodies or persons to monitor compliance and to carry out investigations.

Compliance with the duties is a legal obligation for all public bodies who are covered, and public bodies should check whether they fall within the definition of the duties in the Climate Change Act and act accordingly. Whilst it is for public bodies themselves to determine what action they must take in order to comply, the Act also requires that Scottish Ministers give advisory guidance to public bodies in relation to their climate change duties and that those bodies have regard to such guidance.


An Advisory Group was established by the Scottish Government to provide advice on the development of guidance. The members of the group represent a range of public bodies, including local government, NHS, government agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies. Other members include the Sustainable Development Commission Scotland, Scottish Trades Union Congress, Audit Scotland, and Stop Climate Chaos. The Group met for the first time in February 2010.

The Scottish Government, working with the Sustainable Development Commission and Sustainable Scotland Network, also held pre-consultation workshops in March 2010 to which a number of public bodies covered by the duties, and representatives from non governmental organisations, were invited. The Sustainable Development Commission was commissioned to produce a report of the workshops.

A public consultation on draft guidance was launched on 20 September 2010 and ran for ten weeks until 26 November 2010. A total of 479 responses were received to the consultation: 71 responses from individuals and organisations and a further 408 generated as part of a campaign run by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland. Of the campaign responses, 20 included additional comments alongside the generic campaign response text.

The consultation document is available on the 'closed consultation' pages of the Scottish Government website and, where consultation respondents gave the appropriate permissions, their response has been published online. Publishable responses are also available in the Scottish Government Library (Area G-D41, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ).

At the end of the consultation period, social researchers from the Scottish Government's Rural and Environment Analytical Services analysed responses and produced a report based on the analysis of responses.

To ensure public bodies had access to working guidance when the public bodies duties came into effect and whilst analysis and consideration of responses was still ongoing, the draft guidance document issued in consultation was re-formatted and updated to take account of recent climate change-related policy developments, and made available for 1 January. This version has since been used as the basis for further augmentation and improvement in response to the findings of the consultation analysis.

The guidance document - 'Public Bodies Climate Change Duties: Putting Them Into Practice' - has now been published, along with a consultation response paper outlining how the main points raised in consultation have been actioned.

Major Players

For the purposes of the guidance, there are a number of public bodies considered to be 'Major Players' as they have a larger influence or impact on climate change than others. This list is not exhaustive, nor is it a cast-iron classification - it is up to public bodies to decide what action is appropriate for them.

For further information, please contact the Scottish Government at climatechangeandpublicsector@scotland.gsi.gov.uk