Chapter 12

Public sector

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Due to the various policy and delivery responsibilities of local government and its cross-sectoral partners, including the NHS, their role in contributing to Scotland reaching (or not) our climate targets is vital. They also set a very visible public example of pro-climate activity. Ideally, the public sector should be leading by example.

The key areas where local government are a key policy or delivery lead or partner include:

  • transport
  • planning
  • buildings and energy
  • education

Local authorities and some other public bodies, like NHS Scotland and Scottish Water, are also major energy users.

Scotland’s territorial emissions 1990-2021

Emissions in MtCO2e from the public sector 1990-2021, showing a fall of 60% (bold red line)

The public sector’s direct emissions are relatively small at 2.2% of Scotland’s total emissions in 2021, but their footprint, through the impact of their procurement and other choices, is likely to be several times this amount. The 2009 Climate Act imposed a duty on public bodies to contribute to national climate targets and to adaptation and to act sustainably. But, although reporting has improved,271 there is little real monitoring of this obligation. The Climate Change Plan update does not have a separate chapter on the public sector.


Reporting – Public Bodies Climate Change Duties, Sustainable Scotland Network, 2023,

Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.