NatureScot Net Zero Plan
Published: July 2021
Foreword by Francesca Osowska CEO
NatureScot exists to connect people with nature, through inspiring action to address the emergency in the natural world, because our future, and that of following generations, depends on it.
What is our vision? Well, simply put it is for a nature-rich future. What does this mean? There is growing realisation that poverty, disadvantage, discrimination, justice and fairness for all have their roots in the exploitation of our natural world or lack of access to it. To address these issues, we need to put nature at the heart of decision making. There is no bigger or more urgent cause in society today.
We know there are real and immediate threats towards that vision and increasingly we know that people are awakening to the urgency of action. Our ambition is to be an organisation that inspires action for the natural world. This Net Zero Plan has a particular emphasis on helping Scotland build back better.
Our work is not just ‘nice to do’, but it is a ’must do’. Doing it will make a real difference to planetary and human health, as well as helping deliver social, economic and environmental resilience – now and well into the future.
Addressing the nature and climate crises requires action at all levels, from the highest policy to the actions of communities, organisations like NatureScot and individuals. This document highlights how NatureScot stands ready to play its part in supporting that transformation so that Scotland can meet the exacting and necessary targets set by the Government.
It is my pleasure to present here NatureScot’s first Net Zero Plan and to lead this organisation through the necessary transformation required to play its full and active part in a transition to a low carbon economy and a nature rich future.
What is in this document
This Plan presents NatureScot’s view of how we can achieve our ambition to be Net Zero by 2035. We already have a 2040 zero direct emissions target but we are going further with our 2035 Net Zero stretch target.
Scottish Government declared a climate emergency in 2019, and its Programme for Government announced an ambitious plan to become net zero by 2045, five years ahead of the date set for the UK as a whole. The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, wrote to all Public Bodies asking for their support and NatureScot responded by committing to a zero direct emissions target date of 2040, 5 years earlier than the Scottish Government Target. The strengthened legislation now requires public bodies to report not only on their annual emissions but also on their planned targets for achieving zero direct emissions and reducing their indirect emissions.
‘Net Zero’ means achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out. What we do in the next decade to limit emissions will be critical to the future, which is why every country, sector, industry and each one of us must work together to find ways to cut the carbon we produce.
We will seek to achieve our target by reducing our operational emissions and working to decarbonise our estate through developing and investing in further renewable energy systems at our offices and on our land. To reach Net Zero, all emissions will need to be cut. But in some cases it will be too complex or expensive to cut emissions altogether. These ‘residual’ unavoidable emissions will need to get removed from the atmosphere through carbon capture and storage.
Net Zero planning starts by understanding our impact on the planet, setting the boundaries of our carbon accounting, agreeing our ambitions, and devising a robust and informed strategy for action. Success will only be achieved through a collective effort and practical action. We provide values and tools to our staff to enable them to make positive carbon decisions in their everyday working lives. At NatureScot we expect our staff to be ambassadors for our purpose and goal by making those connections with what they do, how they do it and finding ways to draw others in to making a difference to the natural world.
We have been actively reducing, counting and reporting our emissions since the early 2000s. However, reporting mechanisms, conversion factors and targets have changed over the past two decades. In 2015 Scottish Government introduced mandatory annual reporting for all Public Sector Bodies. This was intended to demonstrate compliance with Public Sector Bodies’ climate change duties, to engage leaders and encourage action. We will use these reports as a baseline against which we will track our future progress to Net Zero and beyond. This approach does not change our final goal of Net Zero, it helps us in terms of consistency and benchmarking.
We will review and refine our Net Zero plan based on the continuous development, guidance, and plans provided by Scottish Government and others. There will be no such thing as a ‘final version’ as it will be in constant review.
Achieving Net Zero emissions within the next 15 years is a major economic and social endeavour. At NatureScot we will build on our effort to date, focusing on the challenges around behaviours, transport, technology, food and energy use.
Whilst we are confident in our purpose and vision, we know we need to change the way we work in order to have greater impact.
With the commitment to 2035 Net Zero stretch target, NatureScot has the opportunity to show leadership within the Public sector. Decisions we make now will shape the way we work, and our environmental impact, for decades to come. Where possible, throughout this plan, we have identified existing (or emerging) projects, plans, policies and strategies that will play a role.
NatureScot is Scotland’s nature agency, a rich natural world underpins all that we do. It provides our clean air, fresh water and the food on our plates. Without a healthy and biodiverse natural world our very existence is threatened.
Our vision is a nature-rich future. We know there are real and immediate threats towards that vision and increasingly we know that people are awakening to the urgency of action. There are two key and very much linked strategic priorities:
- Enriching biodiversity
- Leading nature based solutions to climate change.
In 2019 IPBES published its Global Assessment making plain the crisis confronting biodiversity, and its causes. In February 2020, Government published its Environment Strategy for Scotland: Vision and Outcomes, wherein it states “A healthy natural environment is key to achieving Net Zero. Evidence shows that areas which are nature-rich are also rich in carbon.” This provides a strong framework for our proposed approach.
Ensuring a nature rich future for future generations is at the heart of NatureScot’s activities, and will help sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. It is an essential part of achieving Net Zero, mitigating and adapting to the impact of climate change and tackling biodiversity loss. At the same time we must reduce the carbon footprint of our own operations.
This Net Zero plan is focused primarily on our corporate emissions reduction work and land management on our Nature Reserves, and is key to ensuring our focus on achieving our ambition remains visible and included in all our practices. Our wider work on Climate change and our work on Nature based Solutions can be found on our website.
In October 2019 we published our Climate Change Commitments. This new high-level strategy responds to the Climate Emergency by placing renewed focus on nature-based solutions, and by stating clear ambitions across the range of NatureScot's work. For the first time, our work to address our corporate emissions is presented alongside our wider contribution to emissions-reduction and adaptation, through nature.
As a public sector organisation, a provider of services, a large employer and a procurer of goods and services, NatureScot welcomes and supports the Scottish Government’s target. We will build on our effort to date, focusing on the challenges around behaviours, transport, technology, food and energy use.
This plan commits us to a series of measures which, when combined, are expected to reduce our operational emissions from electricity, gas, waste and water and corporate travel and bring us to Net Zero by 2035.
Like most organisations, our understanding of our entire carbon footprint remains incomplete. Where our carbon impacts are already known, this document presents our plans to reduce them. Where they are not, it details our plans to measure them, so we are able to undertake evidence-based reduction measures in future.
Achieve absolute emissions reductions
Solving the climate emergency requires all organisations to reduce their total emissions, regardless of and excluding rising staff numbers, ownership of land or other operational expansion.
Prioritise reducing emissions
Our Net Zero plan prioritises reducing our emissions, enhancing and improving our landholdings to store more carbon, and investing in Nature based solutions over offsets.
Share successes and failures to accelerate change
The path to Net Zero requires new and bold ideas, some of which may not be successful. By sharing failures as well as success stories we can allow others to avoid repeating the things that do not work, and to easily replicate those which do.
Our organisation’s carbon footprint, annual reporting and accounts include all operational emissions from energy (gas and electricity), water, waste and corporate and staff travel as well as survey work. Our Net Zero plan is structured by the scale of the contribution of each category to our overall emissions total. As a Public Body we are required to monitor, measure and report on all 3 of the following Scopes.
Direct emissions (Scope 1)
We are aiming to achieve ‘Zero Direct’ emissions on our estate and operations by no later than 2040 with a Net Zero stretch target of 2035. We anticipate this could be accelerated should wider factors beyond NatureScot’s control be addressed e.g. emissions factors for grid electricity.
Achieving Zero Direct emissions involves tackling what are known as ‘scope 1 emissions’. Scope 1 emissions are all direct emissions from our activities which are under our control. These include fuel combustion on our sites such as gas boilers, biomass, fuel for generators, and fleet vehicles (not grey fleet or public transport as these are Scope 3).
Whilst our commitment is to zero direct emissions, our overarching plan goes further and aims for Net Zero by reducing what are known as Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions. These are often referred to as indirect emissions. We may not be able to reduce these to zero but will make every effort to reduce them.
Indirect emissions (Scope 2 and 3)
Scope 2 are indirect ‘Emissions from electricity’ purchased and used by the organisation. These emissions are outwith our control. However the National Grid in the UK is decarbonising rapidly year on year. The Scottish Government has committed to stop burning coal in power stations by 2023 and its projection is that the carbon intensity of the grid will continue to fall.
Scope 3 are all ‘Other Indirect Emissions’ - emissions associated with business travel, procurement, supply chains, waste and water.
Other Net emissions
NatureScot owns and manages 41,268 hectares of land. Our land stretches across 43 Nature Reserves (including all or part of 29 National Nature Reserves). The scale of it means it holds significant potential for sequestration. We recognise that most Public Bodies and organisations do not own land, and in order to ensure consistent comparison we have not included this in our emissions reduction target, but instead treat it separately in parallel with our carbon reduction work. Managing and improving the state of our land will not be used to balance or offset any operational emissions we have.
This is a major consideration as we further develop natural capital accounting of our land, and a review is underway to prioritise the management options for the lands we own and/or manage National Nature Reserve (NNR). Through the latter we have already identified important opportunities for further peatland restoration on at least six NNRs, and for expansion of native woodland on at least eight. By enabling natural regeneration and planting native woodlands in the right place in the right way, we will ensure other ecosystem service benefits as well as carbon sequestration. We will invest in these naturebased solutions in parallel with our work towards zero direct emissions (and reduced indirect emissions).
Taking this approach, rather than combining the two into a ‘net emissions’ target, will ensure we maximise effort on all of the ways NatureScot can contribute to Scottish Government's Net Zero target. This approach will also help ensure that our land management for carbon equally targets the crucial co-benefits of adaptation and addressing biodiversity loss.
However, notwithstanding our ‘zero direct’ target, we are likely to continue generating residual emissions under Scope 3, with Scope 2 – Emissions from electricity entirely depending on the national grid and developments outwith our control. Therefore we aim to achieve overall Net Zero emissions by 2035, through carbon storage, sequestration and research and innovation.
In 2019/20 our emissions were 950 tonnes CO21 . This is 11.5% lower than the previous year.
1 Data relates to figure available in May 2020. This includes estimates for March readings due to impact of COVID-19.
Our total annual emissions breakdown
All our staff corporate travel claims record the mode of transport used and trip location/distance. Emissions are calculated using conversion factors provided by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). We use conversion factors as directed and provided by Scottish Government for public sector.
Travel impact breakdown
In the baseline year travel accounts for 28% of our annual total emissions. From this we further separate our Corporate Travel emissions to Pool vehicles 53%, Public Transport 34% and Grey fleet (personal car use) 13%.
In 2019/20 we had a presence at 45 sites, the majority of which had staff based there, whereas a few, like some workshops and stores did not. These sites are a mixture of office space and operational buildings, like on Nature Reserves. These are a mixture of ones that we own, some that we are the main leaseholder for, and others where we rent space off other organisations.
The differing lead status of the various sites makes the reporting of emissions complicated and there is inconsistency between partner organisations on the approach to take. This is something we are looking to address via a climate change collaboration group to ensure a consistent approach.
For 2019/20 there were 25 sites where we are the lead organisation and report all the emissions (and at 2 of these there are other organisations based there). There were 9 sites where we share with other organisations and the emissions are split between the organisations. The remaining 11 sites the lead organisation takes responsibility for the emissions so we do not report anything for these.
We collect our emissions data via monthly meter readings of electricity, gas and biomass boilers, along with deliveries of heating oil and fuel for generators. This is converted to emissions using BEIS conversion factors for the corresponding year.
‘Waste’ refers to a waste of land and natural resource use – and associated GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions. The goal of sustainable waste management is to reduce the amount of natural resources consumed, confirm that any materials that are taken from nature are reused as many times as possible and that the waste created is kept to a minimum. At NatureScot we are committed to reduce emissions by buying less, reducing our consumption and therefore our waste, and increase our recycling. Recycling is only one aspect of waste reduction. We aim to follow the waste hierarchy which is to: Refuse, Reduce, Refill, Reuse, Repair and Recycle.
There are bins provided in all our offices for paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, glass, batteries collection and general waste.
In 2018 NatureScot committed to reducing its use of plastics and part of this is trying to eliminate the use of single use coffee cups across our estate. To encourage this, reusable keep-cups have been distributed to all staff.
Crisp packet recycling was introduced in many offices during spring 2019.
Waste management requires a number of challenging issues to be addressed, for instance, data collection, data accuracy; quality aspects related to recycling and waste prevention. Sharing of offices with other organisations means we need more collaborative working to achieve a good outcome and to manage our waste appropriately. At our Nature Reserves and Visitor Centres we also have waste coming from the general public that we have no control over, but have to dispose of.
Our overall waste data is therefore currently based on estimates as we don’t have figures for every site. As collection of figures improves, our future aim is to report actuals instead of estimates.
Our food waste includes both unavoidable waste (such as banana peel and tea bags) and avoidable waste (edible but uneaten food). We provide composting facilities at all our offices, some of which is used on our grounds, front lawns etc. but also staff have access for use in their own private gardens. We currently do not report on composted food waste figures.
Statement of Requirements (for events, conferences, meetings and training courses for staff and external visitors) includes the requirement for products and ingredients to be sustainably and ethically sourced. Any packaging should be minimal and materials used must be environmentally-friendly and items recycled as appropriate and avoiding single use plastics.
Purchasing of protective clothing for Staff is also considered with recycling and waste in mind and garments need to be ethically sourced, repairable and made out of recyclable materials.
How we measure our water emissions: meter readings combined with estimates based on previous years. This is then converted to emissions using the latest conversion factor provided by the Scottish Government.
Our overall waste data is currently based on estimates as we don’t have figures for every site. As collection of figures improves, our future aim is to report actuals instead of estimates.
Our plan to cut emissions by 2035
Once an organisation has put in place an emissions monitoring system and established its baseline, it can develop an evidence-based, targeted Net Zero strategy.
The NatureScot Estates Strategy has an action to develop a 10 year plan for offices and an investment programme for renewables on our NNRs. Our Transforming Workplaces Programme (TWP) has redesigned our NatureScot offices into workplaces that better reflect our needs for the future, aligned to the Scottish Government’s direction of travel for developing Smarter Working across the public sector. We are doing this through our shared workspaces, desk sharing with surplus space made available to new co-locatees or handed back to landlords. The consolidation of space and staff giving up dedicated desks and sharing space has enabled us to significantly reduce our office space, reducing our running costs and building emissions as is evidenced in the reduction in overall building emissions being reported. As mentioned earlier in some of our offices where we have reduced space the carbon emissions are reported by the landlord so our reductions are not recognised in NatureScot reports.
Our actions will focus on:
- The future of our offices and supporting the further development of public sector hubs. With the expected shift to many staff becoming permanent homeworkers and the increasing use of the office as a collaborative, drop in workspace.
- Further development of public sector hubs: Reducing the number of NatureScot’s offices / space we occupy in line with business need and the opportunity for collocations.
- Further investment in new renewable energy systems to achieve Net Zero across all our offices, visitor centres.
- Ensuring our buildings are more resilient to issues such as adverse weather which prevents staff from getting to work. (such as having individual laptops and flexible working systems in place to enable staff to work remotely; and by minimising the risk of floods and other natural extreme weather events. by using Nature based Solutions where possible (e.g. raingardens and other soft engineering solutions)).
- When moving and re-locating offices, we will choose locations within easy reach of public transport links (for residual meetings and office work commuting). We will choose low emission or Net Zero buildings.
Installation of renewable energy systems at our offices
We have already made significant investment installing Renewable Energy (RE) systems such as hydro schemes, wind turbines and PVs in all readily identifiable sites, however we wish to install more at all properties to achieve Zero Carbon (ZC). We generated 269,293 kWh of renewable electricity in 2019/20 using our current systems. This saved over 74 tonnes of CO2.
In March 2020 NatureScot commissioned a study to carry out a desktop analysis of the fuel consumption and carbon figures with a view to assessing the feasibility of low and zero carbon technologies in order to achieve Net Zero carbon within the NatureScot Estate. Our estate covers are variety of building and property types, some more suited to the adoption of low or zero carbon technologies than others. This strategy has been the identification of suitable technologies to which will get as close to zero carbon as possible in this exercise, given the constraints present at each location. We now know the size of the investment required and plan to carry out further surveys to inform decision taking. It is unlikely that we can afford the total investment that will be required to deliver Net Zero at all current sites. We are also exploring access to Government funding aimed at decarbonising the public sector estate. We are aiming to achieve zero direct emissions on all our estate and operations by no later than 2040 with a 2035 Net Zero stretch target.
This will be an ongoing project over a few years – budget dependant and should offer a good carbon reduction to the estate.
We are also carrying out a strategic review to our office portfolio and developing a 10 year plan for offices with environmental performance being a key criteria. This will help us achieve a suite of offices which have zero or low emissions at locations with better public transport links. Some of our offices and buildings are incapable of achieving zero carbon emissions so the implication would be to move or to invest substantially in renewable energy solutions.
This is a rapidly-developing field and NatureScot wants to have enough information to give us confidence that we are investing in systems in all properties that can deliver the best overall balance between: achieving zero emissions, saving running/operating costs, and receiving income streams from Feed in Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive.
At NatureScot we have offices across the whole of Scotland, and we also manage Nature Reserves. Our staff need to maintain a physical presence out in the field, including meeting with our key stakeholders. The nature of our work necessitates travel, but we are moving to more on line services and connectivity which will reduce the need for travel.
Our actions will focus on:
- Reducing flights and introducing a flight management system.
- Reducing private vehicle use (grey fleet).
- Replacing petrol and diesel cars with EVs and Hybrids, including our 4x4.
- Installing charging points at our sites to support the electric fleet.
- Reducing the overall number of cars in our pool fleet.
- Promoting the use of public transport, cycle schemes and active travel to staff.
- Encouraging greater use of our video conferencing to reduce travel for meetings.
We plan to replace our petrol and diesel car and van fleet with electric vehicles by 2025 in line with the Scottish Government’s target to phase out petrol and diesel cars. We currently have 22 electric vehicles and 5 plug-in hybrids. We are planning to purchase another 14 EVs during 2021, which would result in approximately 70% of our cars and vans being fully electric. The electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions although there is the carbon impact of electricity to charge them. As we are ahead of schedule in our roll-out of EVs it is very likely we have full implementation ahead of 2025, supplemented by hired cars/car club where required. We are also considering the use of our cars, therefore we are only purchasing what we need, reducing the overall number of our pool fleet, disposing of more than we are replacing.
We also have electric vehicle charging points for pool vehicles at 10 of our sites with the capacity to charge 34 vehicles, plus another 26 across 9 sites planned for this year.
As a result of using EVs (over petrol/diesel cars) we estimate we saved 13,800 kg CO2 tailpipe emissions last year. Over the last 4 years we have reduced the emissions from our pool vehicles by 33% as a result of reduced mileage, and the roll-out of EVs. Based on mileage from 2019/20 by petrol/diesel cars there is potential for a further 90,000 kg CO2 tailpipe emissions saving per year in the coming years by converting cars to EVs.
Replacing operational 4x4 vehicles with electric vehicles will happen at later date once they are available – currently anticipated full implementation of EVs for this part of the fleet is 2030. Therefore anticipated date for zero tailpipe emissions for all fleet vehicles is by 2030.
We have and are continuing to replace petrol quads with electric off-road vehicles on our Nature Reserves as well as exploring how e-bikes can be used at various locations to further reduce emissions.
As a result of more staff working from home we are actively exploring the benefits of a salary sacrifice scheme for electric vehicles so that where staff undertake grey fleet mileage this could be by EV.
Scotrail Business Travel portal is used for booking train journeys, and this will be a primary method by end of 2020 with majority of tickets purchased this way. This gives us greater accuracy and better data on our corporate emissions from train journeys.
A cycle to work scheme is available to all staff and travel staff survey results show that more staff are considering the use of active travel.
Equality of access is considered when using technological solutions for meetings; this also includes meetings with stakeholders. We have offices and staff located across Scotland, covering some of the more remote locations including islands. Even some of our Board members live remotely. Everyone at NatureScot has equal opportunities and access to training courses, conferences, events, face to face meetings, job opportunities and this is why even though we encourage staff to use video technology and avoid unnecessary travel we are also mindful of all our staff having equal opportunities regardless of where they choose to live and work.
Flight management protocol
We plan to introduce a flight management system. Flights will be subject to a 20% annual reduction rate (using baseline figures from our annual reporting).
‘Flight allowance’ is divided quarterly across the teams. All flight requests must include what portion of the quarterly allowance they will consume. Approved flight mileage is deducted from the quarterly allowance in real-time to maintain an up-to-date record, with unused mileage rolled over to the following quarter.
T&S and finance reports will be operating side by side. These reports combined will give us more accuracy and better adherence to our travel policy.
Sustainability is key to our Technology and Digital Services Strategy ‘Harnessing Technology to Benefit Nature’ which places a strong emphasis on the objectives set out in Scottish Public Sector Green ICT Strategy.
Over recent years NatureScot has made excellent progress in reducing the carbon impact of our ICT infrastructure though the consolidation and virtualisation of our Information Technology estate. This has led to a much reduced on premise IT footprint which will be further downsized as we move more of our ICT services to the Cloud.
Our actions will focus on:
- Reducing power consumption by moving services to the Cloud.
- Rollout of new technologies to underpin flexible and remote working practices.
- Further Data Centre consolidation.
- Colocations to achieve greater efficiencies and financial savings.
We will aim to eliminate our current helicopter use for survey work. We are actively pursuing investment in new technologies that minimise carbon use in the survey work and data collection that underpins decisions about nature. A CivTech project will look at available technology for deer census and herbivore impacts which will reduce our emissions from helicopter use. Emissions from helicopters are currently 4% of our total annual emissions.
Purchasing Goods, Services and Works
The way we assess and approve internal project spend bids includes a consideration of how it will deliver on the Climate Change duties, and our Procurement Strategy embeds sustainability into the decision-making procedures of all our purchases.
We will actively seek to include natural heritage benefits in the range of (non-cash) benefits from public contracts. Our actions will focus on:
- Referencing our Net Zero plan in our Sustainable Procurement Statement of Policy and Practice.
- Designing Low Carbon into the technical specifications and evaluation criteria of our projects including our stated preference for reductions over offsets.
- Requiring suppliers to demonstrate how the goods, services and works they supply meet our standards and specifications.
- Investigate model systems for measuring carbon impacts of contracts throughout the contract period.
- Demanding that suppliers deliver goods that comply with relevant Government Buying Standards.
- Refusing to buy goods or services that do not meet our standards.
- Continuing to engage with other public bodies to develop stronger sustainability practices, share learning and implement good practice in the spirit of the Climate Change Act.
- Engaging with Project Managers to understand what further support is required to include sustainability throughout their contract management.
- Require Project Managers to include Environmental Benefits when reporting Contract Information for Projects to be collated on our Contracts Register.
Managing our land
NatureScot manages 41,268 hectares which is about 0.5% of the whole of Scotland. Our land stretches across 43 nature reserves (including all or part of 29 NNRs). We will manage our landholdings as exemplars of ways to enhance carbon storage and sequestration and encourage their use, enjoyment and management in line with our carbon commitments.
In 2019 we established a baseline natural capital account of our land, and in 2020 we reviewed our nature reserves to identify potential for them to contribute further to climate change adaptation and mitigation. We will pursue the most climate-beneficial options on our land, and further develop carbon accounting of our management to monitor progress and promote the methods to others.
Our actions will focus on:
- Ensuring the habitats of our nature reserves are managed to maximise carbon storage and sequestration potential, insofar as compatible with conservation of their protected natural features and other ecosystem services. In particular we will prioritise the remaining opportunities for peatland restoration and improvement.
- Identifying opportunities for habitat creation on our nature reserves where appropriate to maximise carbon storage and sequestration.
- Moving to EV and low carbon emission nature reserve vehicles where possible.
- Encouraging low and zero carbon approaches to accessing our reserves.
- Maximising opportunities for local use of venison from our nature reserves.
- Demonstrating/ promoting Nature-based Solutions e.g. low density, unfenced woodland establishment.
The best way to store carbon is not to burn or release what is already stored in the ground. Nature-based Solutions are an essential conjunct to reductions in emissions from human activities.
Natural habitats are an important carbon store. When healthy they lock up carbon and they emit less carbon than they sequester. Main carbon stores include peatlands, woodland, marine sediments and coastal habitats (blue carbon), uncultivated ground and some agricultural soils. Provided habitats are in good condition, storage can be considered to be long term (e.g. peatlands, which accrue very slowly and marine sediments), medium term (e.g. some woodlands) or short term (e.g. agricultural land where changes in farming practices can quickly reverse any benefits). Net GHG emission savings will depend on the balance of carbon sequestered and greenhouse gases emitted, and this in turn will depend on the condition of the habitat.
Habitats that are damaged, e.g. from drainage, high densities of livestock or deer, or dredging in marine habitats, release stored carbon, and contribute to emissions. One of the impacts of climate change is that natural habitats may become further damaged (e.g. via drought and flooding, forest or moorland fires) and therefore release carbon, so undermining climate change mitigation targets.
This is why changing how we manage land to increase how much carbon is held in vegetation, soils and seabeds is central to climate change mitigation. Nature-rich landscapes will also be less vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, ‘a nature-rich future’ being our integral concept in tackling the climate emergency and biodiversity loss. Nature-rich places can be important carbon stores, regulating the key biogeochemical cycles that define a safe operating space for humanity and aid resilience to future climate changes. A nature-rich future is therefore an essential contributor to the Net Zero carbon future. For land management’s contribution to Climate Change mitigation (reducing emissions from land, increasing sequestration), as well as adaptation (resilience of nature) we will be prioritising the restoration of peatlands as well as improving the condition and enabling the expansion of native woodlands on land we own and manage (and then those on other protected areas). We will also invest in coastal habitats to reduce the impact of storm damage on national infrastructure.
We will also further develop carbon accounting of our management to monitor progress, and promote the methods to others.
As noted above, NatureScot will prioritise reducing its operational emissions and focus our efforts on investing in nature on the land we own. Once we have reduced our emissions as far as possible, we will revisit our plan and consider other mechanisms available to us including offsetting.
Graph below tries to illustrate this point.
Beyond our target, whole carbon budget, out of scope emissions and actions
In addition to reducing operational emissions falling within the scope of Net Zero, NatureScot will continuously improve our understanding, monitoring and measurement of our whole carbon footprint, and then take evidence-led steps to reduce it. This section outlines NatureScot’s progress to-date and future developments.
Co-location and flexible working
We have increased the density at some of our offices as a result of co-locations and this has impacted on our reported building energy consumption it has an overall positive impact on carbon emissions. All staff are now using laptops, helping, amongst other benefits, in reducing the consumption of paper. We are also continuing to reduce our office space requirements through re-design but also a decrease in staff numbers. NatureScot is aligned to the Scottish Government Estates Strategy.
We are carrying out a strategic review of our office portfolio and developing a 10-year plan for our offices with environmental performance being a key criteria. This will help us achieve a suite of offices which have zero or low emissions at locations with better public transport links.
Catering impacts, sustainable diet
Choices we make, and how the food we eat impacts on climate, our water and land systems. Food production is responsible for around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and the main cause of biodiversity loss globally. In the UK, agriculture is responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, 83% of ammonia air pollution, and 16% of water pollution. All aspects of food production contribute to climate changing emissions. Agriculture accounts for the largest share of emissions. We also shouldn’t forget food waste and packaging. Over 10m tonnes of food is wasted in the UK annually. From growing crops to processing, transporting, selling, storing and throwing away food – everything we eat has an impact on the environment and the climate.
At NatureScot we will work towards providing more locally produced and low carbon (footprint) food options for events, conferences, meetings and training courses for staff and external visitors at all our offices. Products and ingredients are also to be sustainably and ethically sourced. Any packaging should be minimal and materials used must be environmentally-friendly and items recycled as appropriate and avoiding single use plastics.
Our actions will focus on:
- Providing locally sourced food produced using sustainable production systems that are good for biodiversity and the climate as well as animal welfare.
- Catering for meetings - ‘sustainable diet’ as a default choice (which would include less meat and dairy while not excluding it). Our aim will be to reduce meat in corporate catering to support Scottish Government target of 20% less meat consumption by 2030 and 35% by 2050.
- Prioritising pure pasture-fed and/or outdoor-reared dairy and meat produce.
- Replacing bottled water with tap water.
- Eliminating single use plastics.
- Providing reusable (washable), recyclable or compostable coffee cups, paper towels.
- Providing compost facilities for food waste.
- Reducing food waste.
- Working with cafes/caterers to encourage sustainable practices, from sourcing food to packaging and disposal.
Establish a system for measuring impacts of Home Working
Working towards recovery from Covid-19, In July 2020 we issued an all staff survey to establish who might be interested in working from home on a more permanent basis – either for 100% of their time or for a significant part of the week on a regular basis - now defined as 60% or more of their time. Of those who responded - 652 out of 720 employees, preferences are:
- 62% to stay as is with occasional home working.
- 21% to move to regular (60% of time or more) home working.
- 17% to move to permanent home working.
Staff who didn’t respond are likely to not work from an office. It’s important to note these are only preferences, which will be agreed when our offices reopen. Whilst this will greatly reduce staff home to work commuting impacts, the emissions related to home working are currently unaccounted for. NatureScot will therefore work with staff and others to obtain, measure and integrate these impacts into our reporting going forward. These may be estimates based on average office emissions per person and a UK average household. We will only account for our share of the household emission, not the entire household.
Establish a system for measuring impacts of home to work travel
Sustainable Scotland Network is working in collaboration with Zero Waste Scotland to develop a tool for collating and measuring -staff home to work commuting data. At NatureScot we trailed the pilot tool and are working in collaboration with others to understand, develop and improve our commuting emissions.
We will aim to issue an all-staff survey annually to collect data on commuting distance, duration and mode of transport. This will be converted into carbon emissions using the appropriate conversion factors for that year. It will allow us to see what the daily, quarterly and yearly emissions for commuting are, both in per-capita terms, but also in terms of our yearly total home to work commuting carbon output.
There are currently no requirement to report on this figure in the annual climate change duties report, but we intend to collate the data and report on these figures internally. Our aim is to monitoring our emissions outwit the current reporting requirements.
Reduce, negate the need for paper based licensing and applications. We will move to an online systems and processing. This will be linked to licencing database which will also be rebuilt. We will move to an online application system. This will save customer and NatureScot’s paper use.
During 2019/20 we went through 2019 reams of paper, which equates to 231,502 sheets of paper and this is approximately 1.1 tonne of co2. Due to our staff now working from home, ordering of paper and printing has reduced. In the last 6 months we saved an estimated 550kg of CO2. Figures based on last year’s spend. We hope to continue this and reduce our overall paper use in the future.
Green Infrastructure Audit of NatureScot Offices
As part of our Climate Change Commitments we are exploring how we can maximise the benefits of green infrastructure, in and around the places we work, to help us adapt to the effects of climate change. NatureScot and some of our partner public sector organisations that we share office space with, intend to lead by example in acting on climate change through the retro-fit of innovative green infrastructure to its offices. By adopting naturebased solutions, we will also deliver health and well-being benefits for our staff and provide more opportunities for them to connect with nature.
In June 2020 we commissioned a 4 month research project into the potential for greening (green walls, raingardens, green roofs etc.) five of NatureScot offices: Edinburgh, Clydebank, Golspie, Cupar and Aberdeen.
Benefits of retrofitting Green Infrastructure
Green Infrastructure such as trees, living walls, rain gardens and green roofs helps make places more attractive, as well as mitigate and adapt to the consequences of climate change. Green infrastructure can:
- Attenuate rainwater, thus reducing flooding and the impact on existing grey drainage infrastructure.
- Provide valuable habitat for our declining pollinators in an urban context at a time of unprecedented loss of biodiversity.
- Lower urban air temperatures through the evaporation of water and the provision of shade.
- Make urban spaces more welcome and attractive, thus encouraging more time spent outdoors, improving people’s wellbeing, immunity and workforce productivity.
- Green roofs can provide insulation and improve thermal efficiency of the buildings they’re situated on.
Embedding a culture of sustainability
Sustainability must be the responsibility of every individual and team within an organisation. Our aim is to embed a culture of sustainability, shared responsibility and continuous improvement at every level. At NatureScot we offer in house training and a Climate Change e-learning module to improve staff knowledge and raise awareness. We have also conducted a staff survey on carbon literacy and identified potential skill gaps. The results from the 2020 scoping exercise in NatureScot, to be ‘climate change literate’ staff must:
- Have climate science knowledge.
- Have communication and engagement skills.
- Be able to implement mitigation and adaptation strategies.
The skills needed to deliver this Plan fall under all three of these strands, and the appropriate skills share and learning will be delivered through our Learning & Development team and our Climate Change Programme Board.
Continuous staff engagement
Staff consultation and input has played a pivotal role in shaping our Net Zero plan, bringing in new ideas, ensuring all perspectives are considered, and establishing a unified understanding that change is needed, and is coming. Our staff are a critical asset to achieving greater sustainability, as we continue to consult our staff for new ideas and input going forward.
We believe that when you join NatureScot, you are also signing up to make a difference for nature, for the people of Scotland, for the planet and for future generations. What we do and the way we tell others about the importance of it will make a real difference to planetary and human health, as well as helping deliver social, economic and environmental resilience.
Our expectation that all staff embed sustainability into their roles and consciously seek ways to reduce our environmental impacts will be clearly communicated during our hiring process. Sustainability training is incorporated into the induction process to ensure new members of staff feel responsible, capable and empowered to drive change and improve our existing processes regardless of their role.
Structure of Net Zero plan governance
This plan provides a path for NatureScot’s journey toward zero emissions; one which we will continuously improve upon in the years to come.
Our governing Board and Senior Leadership Team have ultimate oversight of the plan, its continuous improvement and delivery.
A Net Zero team has been created to co-ordinate Net Zero activities across the organisation, monitor our ongoing operational impacts, and report to our Chief Executive and the Board. This team also contributes and collaborates with our Climate Change Programme Board.
The purpose of our Climate Change Programme Board is to coordinate and provide direction for our climate change activities and to facilitate integration across all aspects of NatureScot business. The work is also closely aligned with development of the revised biodiversity strategy, which focuses on the five IPBES drivers of change, of which global climate change is one.
Glossary of useful terms
Adaptation - the evolutionary process whereby an organism becomes better able to live in its habitat or habitats. 2. Adaptedness is the state of being adapted: the degree to which an organism is able to live and reproduce in a given set of habitats.
Carbon footprint - the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. Greenhouse gases, including the carbon-containing gases carbon dioxide and methane, can be emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance and the production and consumption of food, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, transportation and other services.
Carbon neutrality - refers to achieving Net Zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon dioxide emissions with removal (often through carbon offsetting) or simply eliminating carbon dioxide emissions altogether. It is used in the context of carbon dioxidereleasing processes associated with transportation, energy production, agriculture, and industrial processes. Carbon-neutral status can be achieved in two ways: 1. balancing carbon dioxide emissions with carbon offsets, often through carbon offsetting and 2. Reducing carbon emissions (low-carbon economy) to zero through changing energy sources and industry processes.
Carbon negative means the same thing as “climate positive.”
Carbon positive - means that an activity goes beyond achieving Net Zero carbon emissions to actually create an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon positive is sometimes how organizations describe when their emissions are less than ones they offset or sequester, we avoid this term as it is not often a true reflection of their actual emissions. For example a ‘carbon positive’ building would need to be producing more energy than it needs and feeding that energy back into the grid.
Direct emissions - Direct GHG emissions are emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the reporting entity.
Emission Scopes - According to the leading GHG Protocol corporate standard, a company’s greenhouse gas emissions are classified in three scopes. Scope 1 and 2 are mandatory to report, whereas scope 3 is voluntary and the hardest to monitor.
GHG - A greenhouse gas (sometimes abbreviated GHG) is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range. Greenhouse gases cause the greenhouse effect on planets. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere are water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and ozone (O3). Without greenhouse gases, the average temperature of Earth's surface would be about −18 °C (0 °F),rather than the present average of 15 °C (59 °F).
Greening - the process of transforming living environments, and also artifacts such as a space, a lifestyle or a brand image, into a more environmentally friendly version.
Indirect emissions - Indirect GHG emissions are emissions that are a consequence of the activities of the reporting entity, but occur at sources owned or controlled by another entity.
Kyoto protocol - international treaty which extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that commits state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the scientific consensus that (part one) global warming is occurring and (part two) it is extremely likely that human-made CO2 emissions have predominantly caused it. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. There are currently 192 parties to the Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol implemented the objective of the UNFCCC to reduce the onset of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to "a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system". The Protocol applies to the six greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
Low-carbon - causing or resulting in only a relatively small net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Low carbon power for instance comes from processes or technologies that produce power with substantially lower amounts of carbon dioxide emissions than is emitted from conventional fossil fuel power generation. It includes low carbon power generation sources such as wind power, solar power, hydropower and nuclear power.
Mitigation - the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something. In this case reducing our corporate emissions and mitigate our impact or contribution to climate change.
Nature-based Solutions (NbS) - are actions that work with and enhance nature to help address societal challenges. The concept is grounded in the knowledge that healthy natural and managed ecosystems produce a diverse range of services on which human wellbeing depends.
NbS is an ‘umbrella concept’ for other established nature-based approaches such as ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) and mitigation (EbM), eco-disaster risk reduction (ecoDRR), Green Infrastructure (GI) and natural climate solutions (NCS).
Net Zero - means achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out.
Offsetting - Carbon offsetting is a way to compensate for carbon emissions produced by an activity, such as air travel, by purchasing units which fund projects that remove or reduce emissions from the atmosphere, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation programs.
Paris agreement - an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, signed in 2016. The Paris Agreement's long-term temperature goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F), recognizing that this would substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. This should be done by reducing emissions as soon as possible, in order to "achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases" in the second half of the 21st century.
Scope 1,2,3 - Scope 1 are direct emissions in control of the organisation: gas, biomass and fleet. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company's value chain. Emissions from corporate travel, procurement, waste, water and grey fleet.
Sequestration - Carbon sequestration or carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is the long-term removal, capture or storage of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to slow or reverse atmospheric CO2 pollution and to mitigate or reverse global warming. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change. There are two major types of carbon sequestration: geologic and biologic.
Zero emissions - refers to an engine, motor, process, or other energy source, that emits no waste products that pollute the environment or disrupt the climate.