Empowering communities on climate action

Alness High Street
Katharine Johnston

Seven towns have been chosen to help tackle the impact of climate change and secure a just transition to net zero.

The Climate Action Towns programme will empower communities to come together and engage in collective climate action, taking account of the unique challenges and opportunities each town faces. That might include looking at what action can be taken on switching to more sustainable food or renewable energy.

Communities in the seven towns will be offered support to find ways of making changes at a local level that will help tackle the crisis, giving them a voice and engaging those that may not have previously engaged in climate action.

The programme will be delivered by design agency Architecture and Design Scotland, with funding of £146,000 from the Scottish Government. The seven towns chosen are:

  • Alness, Highlands
  • Annan, Dumfries & Galloway
  • Blackburn, West Lothian
  • Campbeltown, Argyll & Bute
  • Holytown, North Lanarkshire
  • Invergordon, Highlands
  • Stevenston, North Ayrshire

The project will be driven by collaboration between local people and agencies, and their collective vision of what their Climate Action Town looks like. The outcome of the work with the towns will be used to outline learning for climate action on a town scale that can then be applied across Scotland and beyond.

The announcement comes during the Scottish Government’s Just Transition themed weekend during COP26.

The start of the process to collaborate and co-design the Scottish Government’s refreshed Energy Strategy was outlined on Friday. It was also announced that Scotland’s first Just Transition Plan, to be published in spring 2022, will be focussed on the energy sector.

The Scottish Government will provide £100,000 to establish a Just Transition Alliance within the Under2 Coalition, a network of more than 200 devolved and local governments driving climate action across the world, so that members can access the resources, support and information necessary to deliver a just transition in cities and towns across the world.

Just Transition Minister Richard Lochhead said:

“It is clear that we must decarbonise industry and society in order to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, but we must do so in a way that is fair for everyone and leaves no one behind.

“Scotland was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, so we see it as only right that Scotland is at the forefront of this green revolution.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make changes in a way that will be good for our people, our communities, our economy and our planet – we must seize it.

“Tackling the climate crisis requires all of us, at every level, to get involved. We can all make a difference. The Climate Action Towns project aims to support and empower communities to have a say on how their local areas should change as part of a fair and just transition to net zero. I look forward to seeing how the towns that are taking part rise to the challenge and find ways that will not only make a difference locally but to Scotland and indeed the world.”

Architecture and Design Scotland Chief Executive Jim MacDonald said:

“The climate emergency demands urgent action from us all. For Scotland to adapt to the impacts of climate change, we are all going to need to work together to adapt the ways we live, work, play and move in our cities, towns and villages. Considering that half of Scotland’s population live in towns, it is vital towns are a key focus in the fight against climate change.”  


The Climate Action Towns were chosen based on their population size (less than 10,000), Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) factors and the fact they have historically not been engaged in climate action.

The Under2Coalition brings together local governments and devolved administrations around the world, representing approximately 1.75 billion people and 50% of the global economy.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) – the UK’s independent adviser on tackling climate change – has estimated that over 60% of the changes required to reach net zero will be, at least in part, behavioural or societal. For this reason, Climate Action Towns is focusing on the power of “place-based” action, which can include:

  • creating resilient food networks
  • adopting 20-minute neighbourhood planning principles
  • creating community renewable energy co-operatives
  • considering the climate when deciding whether to build new buildings or refurbish and adapt existing ones.