Chapter 2.1.2 Climate-friendly Governance

Meaningful community engagement and empowerment 

The Scottish Government and public bodies need to engage communities in meaningful participatory processes, especially about adaptation.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

Communities, where the cost of living crisis, poverty, exclusion, food insecurity and the ever increasing severity of climate based consequences, combine, are often best placed to take local action for the mitigation of climate change and for adaptation to the impacts.  Rural and island communities have additional challenges, including more severe weather,  very significant levels of fuel poverty and more fragile supply chains for food and other essential goods and services.

Within this context, genuinely empowering communities with both practical support and funding is vital.  Too often, despite statutory recognition, community engagement is equated with informing, simplistic messaging, ‘being the parent’  or ‘doing to’, whereas supporting meaningful engagement and genuine bottom up, community based responses and empowerment is a very different thing.

The Scottish Government’s funding of a network of climate hubs20 recognises the value of place-based, community-level responses, and as such, securing adequate funding for both community groups and the new climate hubs is important.  This funding needs to be on a sufficiently long-term basis to allow communities and hubs to offer good, secure jobs and to plan and implement programmes for both mitigation and adaptation.

As is well reported, those living in Scotland will be increasingly impacted by gales, flooding, wildfires and coastal erosion, with losses of livelihood and internal displacement an inevitability.21

How to support those losing homes and livelihoods is key, as is recognising and mitigating the personal tragedies involved, from unsellable homes due to new flooding risks to the significant areas of the Western Isles which will be lost to flooding and coastal erosion.

Food insecurity will also increase, as crops and animals are lost or harmed by extreme weather, animal pathogens change; the fish move further further away into cooler waters and Scottish farmland is lost from agriculture, through off-setting and forestry plantations.  A loss which will last generations, due to the difficulty of returning root tangled, clear cut forestry land to either pasture or plough-able land.

The Scottish Government has an adaptation programme22 which fully recognises the need for increasing the resilience of communities, however as the Climate Change Committee has reported, progress on delivery has stalled23.  The same report goes on to say that there are good local level initiatives, and that fairness within adaptation is just as important as fairness elsewhere. Audit Scotland also highlighted the low priority adaptation has had and its importance in its recent report.24

The adaptation programme is due to be revised in 2024 and it is important that the Scottish Government re-energises the programme, designing responses through participatory processes with impacted communities and empowering those communities.

For further information:

See also the ‘Decarbonising the public sector’ policy in the Public sector chapter.


For instance, Impacts in Scotland, Adaptation Scotland, 2023,


Climate Ready Scotland: Second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019-2024, Scottish Government, 2019,


Government must improve climate set up, Audit Scotland, April 2023,

Version 1.0: September 2023

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