Climate Action Summit 2023

Holyrood’s Climate Action Summit 2023 took place at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh 8-9 November, followed by the ever-popular Climate Action Awards and ceilidh on the evening of 8 November.

The Scottish Government has legally binding, ambitious targets in place to meet net zero by 2045. However, a recent progress report to Parliament by the Climate Change Committee claimed that Scotland had lost its lead over the rest of the UK and Europe on tackling climate change.

In a keynote address, Màiri McAllan MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition, set out the steps the Scottish Government is taking to deliver its ambition and accelerate action in tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Holyrood’s solutions-based, forward-thinking Climate Action Summit 2023 considered what practical steps need to be taken now if Scotland is to achieve both its net zero and nature restoration targets.

The event took place following the consultation on the Scottish Government’s Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, and publication of draft Just Transition Plans for Buildings and Construction, Land Use and Agriculture and Transport. It also coincided with their forthcoming Climate Change Plan, expected at the end of 2023, and explored topics including:

  • Housing
  • Agriculture and the rural economy
  • Transport
  • Enablers such as skills, leadership, and funding

To view pictures from across the two days of the summit, follow this link to our Flickr.

Investment Director
Public Affairs Manager
UK Woodland Carbon Code Manager
Co-Founder & Director
Co-Founder & Director
Team Leader - Climate Change Strategy
Head of Hydrogen Policy
Head of Policy for Scotland
Chief Executive Officer
Head of Heat, Buildings Investment Unit
Energy & Technical Sustainability Manager
Head of Business Development
Partnerships Manager
Consents and Environment Strategy Manager
Member and Business Champion
Head of External and Corporate Affairs
Chief Executive
Communications and Involvement Manager
Dean Emerita and Professor of Practice
Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value
Chief Planning & Housing Officer
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Scotland Office)
International Urbanist
Interim Chief Executive
Managing Director
Programme Director, Built Environment
Chief Executive
Chair (Scotland)
Hub Manager
Chief Planner
Convener, Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee
Director of Net Zero
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy, and Just Transition
Ivan McKee Headshot
MSP for Glasgow Provan
As well as being a politician, Ivan's career has involved a number of senior roles in manufacturing and business; managing companies in the UK as well as Poland, Finland, Croatia and Bosnia.
Chief Executive
Place and Wellbeing Partnership Lead

Recent expert assessments on Scotland’s progress towards Net Zero by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), Audit Scotland and the Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG) make for stark reading. According to the reports, Scotland missed seven out of its 11 targets to reduce emissions by 75% by 2023, progress is stalling, and the country risks losing credibility as a climate leader.


The new Climate Change Plan should address many of the issues, but will it go for enough to get Scotland back on track? What should be the priorities now to drive change at the pace required? Given the scale of the challenge, better coordination across all areas of government will be needed, as well as building on the vital role that public-private partnerships can play in accelerating change.


In this session, we will discuss how we can unlock barriers to faster action, and the role partnerships are increasingly playing in driving change and improving outcomes.

The built environment is one of the areas where rapid change is most needed for Scotland’s 2030 and 2045 targets to be met. Attaining the target reduction of emissions from buildings by 70% compared to 2020 levels by 2030 will require deployment of energy efficiency measures and installation of low-carbon heating at a rate considerably beyond what has been achieved to date.


Barriers to effective action are sizable – from a scarcity of installers with necessary skills, over reliance on market-based approaches to drive uptake of low-carbon heat pumps, public concerns regarding affordability, and a dearth of consumer financing options.


In this session, we will hear how action towards decarbonising buildings can be accelerated and explore the vital role that cities, towns and communities are playing in driving change, strengthening biodiversity, and enabling adaptation through transformative approaches to their built environment.

Scotland has ambitious targets in place to decarbonise transport, including a headline target to reduce overall emissions from the sector by 53%, and a decline in car-kilometres by 20% relative to 2019 levels by 2030.


Delivering on these ambitions requires effective policy to both drive rapid uptake of zero-emissions vehicles and enable citizens to reduce their use of high-carbon modes of transport. Plans to achieve these objectives, in the shape of readily available and user-friendly EV charging, and a shift to alternative public transport options will need to be accelerate. Innovations such as 20-minute neighbourhoods and driverless vehicles, meanwhile, are also making inroads across Scotland’s towns and cities.


In this session, we will examine the extent to which Scotland’s sector pathway for transport will address current target transport emission shortfalls, and the learnings and insights from successful emission reduction projects across the country that could have national impact.

The CCCu sets out a target to reduce emissions in the agricultural sector by around 28% between 2020 and 2030. The upcoming Agricultural Bill will further underpin Scotland’s vision for the sector, and the support schemes to address the key pillars of food, nature and climate.


Delivering on the emissions reductions pathway depends on a combination of transitioning to low-carbon farming measures, transforming our food system and diets, as well as strengthening carbon sinks through woodland creation and peatland restoration. Finding ways to incentive and reward investments in climate adaptation will also play a role.



In this session, we will review the impact the Agricultural, Land Use and Good Food Nation Bills will have in transforming Scotland’s rural economy. We will also hear from farmers and project leaders on the ground on how they are juggling the sometimes-conflicting tasks of reducing emissions, restoring nature and supporting food production.

Planning systems that are too complex, bureaucratic, and slow can have a chilling impact on climate investment and are at odds with net zero goals.


Scotland’s National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) encapsulates Scotland’s response to this challenge, requiring a ‘place-based’ consideration of climate, nature and adaptation impacts in all planning decision making.


In this session, we will discuss whether NPF4 will lead to the ’fairer, greener Scotland’, turbocharging the build out of green infrastructure. We will also explore how planners are grappling with the new regime against a background of sometimes competing priorities and diminished resources.

A circular approach to our economy, where we move from a ‘take, make and dispose’ model to one where we keep materials in use is imperative if we are to tackle the climate and nature crisis.


Despite early headway, Scotland has fallen behind in its waste and recycling targets, including its ambition to recycle 70% of waste by 2025. Much more needs to be done if targets are to be met.


In this session we will discuss the impact of the Circular Economy Bill and the challenges of implementation. We will also highlight the many innovative examples of local efforts and community partnerships from across Scotland and internationally with the potential to transform our throwaway culture.

The investment required to deliver Scotland’s ambitious 2045 Net Zero target is far beyond the reach of the public purse. To take just one example, decarbonisation of heat in buildings carries an estimated price tag of more than £30bn. The Scottish Government funds allocated for this work is £1.8bn.


There is, however, a vast amount of capital available for the right opportunities, and the challenge for Scotland is to find ways to ‘crowd in’ this capital, leveraging limited public sector fund to maximise total investment, while also protecting public assets and priorities.


In this session we will discuss how Scotland can ensure it remains an attractive destination for climate and energy investment in an increasingly competitive global market for green capital, how we can drive investment towards adaptation and nature positive investments, and how partnerships between private and public finance are key to investment success.

The public sector across Scotland faces an enormous challenge in decarbonising its building stock in line with government targets. The public sector estate accounts for some 10% of the country's overall emissions, and the government has set a target of reducing these emissions by 80% by 2030 and net zero by 2045.

A variety of solutions will be needed to both increase energy efficiency and move to low- and zero-carbon heating systems. Increased uptake of heat pumps, the expansion of district heating networks, and improved insulation can play a role. Leadership from the public sector, through the power of its procurement, meanwhile, can encourage the development of the supply chain and reduce the cost of technologies needed to decarbonise buildings and homes in the private sector.

This session will explore how forward-looking organisations in the public sector are addressing the technology, funding, planning, and other challenges in decarbonising their estates in a cost-effective and sustainable way.

Climate tech is an exciting, fast-growing sector of the future economy, with the potential to reduce emissions, create quality jobs, and boost exports. Scotland has the strengths and attributes to become a global leader, however it will need to raise its ambitions beyond the early successes in renewables and ensure the necessary funding and support is in place to fully capitalise on this high-growth opportunity.

This session will spotlight Scotland's pioneering climate tech companies that are creating, deploying, and funding climat technologies to accelerate the transition to a modern, green economy. Speakers will discuss how Scotland can makethe most of its natural advantages and translate research excellence into world-class commercial and job-creating opportunities.

Scotland has long enjoyed its reputation as a renewable energy powerhouse. The country has enviable resources for the development of, hydroelectric, onshore and offshore wind, solar, wave and tidal renewable energy, and is home to the world’s first leasing round for floating offshore wind. Scotland is also making inroads into bulk energy storage, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) markets that are widely hailed as the energy markets of the future.



However, with keen international competition, can Scotland lead in these future industries? How will measures announced as part of US $370bn IRA stimulus, and the EUs support package in response, change the trajectory? Will Scotland be left behind as investment leaves for overseas shores? Can Scotland move beyond deployment to become industrial powerhouse for carbon removal, and green hydrogen industries?



In this concluding session we will discuss how Scotland can successfully harness the momentous opportunities the transition to net zero affords

Find out more about our expert Climate Action Steering Group here.

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