Developing the Working Together Capability - Insights from Aberdeenshire Council

Case Study On-going
Date added: 13/04/2021

Climate change is no respecter of political or geographical boundaries. As such, no organisation can adapt alone, and by working together we can do more to achieve shared adaptation outcomes. Aberdeenshire Council has taken this to heart and excelled with collaborative and ambitious adaptation work. This case study introduces how the council have used the Adaptation Capability Framework in practice and illustrates the benefits of developing the Working Together capability.

About Aberdeenshire Council

Aberdeenshire is a predominantly rural area in the North East of Scotland known for agriculture, fishing, tourism and of course whisky. The region extends to approximately 6,313 sq km, representing 8% of Scotland’s overall territory and is home to world-renowned attractions such as Balmoral and Dunnottar Castles and a spectacular natural environment and biodiversity, all of which can be enjoyed through its miles of coastlines, lochs, woodlands, public parks and gardens, and the Cairngorms National Park. Aberdeenshire Council provides essential services for the area, including leading work on climate action. The Council recognises that all its functions and operations have an impact on the environment and is committed to reducing this by demonstrating clear leadership. They have a Climate Change Declaration, Environmental and Climate Change Policy, Resources and Circular Economy Commitment, and became the first local authority in Scotland to develop and approve a Carbon Budget process which will ensure its services place as much focus on their carbon footprint as their financial budgets. With regards to adaptation, the Council has assessed the Aberdeenshire’s vulnerability to climate change and how to improve for future events through the completion of the 2011 to 2018 Local Climate Impact Profile (LCLIP) which has led to the creation of Climate Ready Aberdeenshire.

Using the Adaptation Capability Framework

Aberdeenshire Council have used Adaptation Scotland’s Adaptation Capability Framework to guide their adaptation work including the ongoing development of a Climate Change Strategy, which addresses both mitigation and adaptation. The council began using the Framework in 2019 and have been using the Benchmarking Tool to track progress as they develop their adaptation capabilities. A host of activities have already been undertaken to understand the challenge of climate change and embed adaptation across the organisation, including:

  • Developing a Climate Change Training Module for all employees to educate and raise awareness of climate change, explain the difference between climate change mitigation and adaptation, highlight where adaptation fits within Aberdeenshire Council’s priorities and how employees and services can contribute to the Council’s climate change targets, reduce their individual emissions and act more sustainably.
  • Hosting a Climate Change Workshop with Elected Members to discuss ideas and suggestions submitted by Aberdeenshire Council staff regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation and the role of elected members and leaders in achieving these aims.
  • Recruiting Sustainability Pioneers who will create a Sustainability Champions programme to lead the way and support the Council and its employees in acting more sustainably and reducing organisational and individual emissions and environmental impact through engagement, support and education. This will include identifying and encouraging climate change mitigation and adaptation actions across the Council’s services and departments and providing advice and support.
  • Embedding Sustainability Considerations with Committee Reports – guidance was developed to ensure that reports to committee for decisions include climate change and sustainability implications. This compulsory action has helped embed climate change mitigation and adaptation into the council’s plans, policies and procedures.
  • Including climate change risks within both the Corporate Risk Register and Directorate’s Strategic Risk Registers by identifying the most common climate associated risks to the Council and all services and aligning these with the latest climate projections for Scotland.

Progressing the Working Together Capability

Aberdeenshire Council have been progressing the Working Together capability through a number of collaborations including the establishment of Climate Ready Aberdeenshire. Climate Ready Aberdeenshire is a cross-sector initiative to create Aberdeenshire’s climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy. It brings together the views and expertise of a range of diverse stakeholders from communities, public, private and 3rd sector organisations, to set out how partners can work collaboratively to meet the challenges of a changing climate within Aberdeenshire.

What's happened so far?

Workshops to Develop Climate Ready Aberdeenshire

During the 2019-20 winter, Aberdeenshire Council organised a series of workshops to scope the establishment of Climate Ready Aberdeenshire. The workshops invited stakeholders from across the region to share knowledge about what was already happening on adaptation and mitigation in the area as well as identify what more could and should be done. In addition, the workshops sought feedback on local, national and international priorities, objectives and legislation that Climate Ready Aberdeenshire would need to consider.

The workshops resulted in an identification of ongoing adaptation and mitigation projects, understanding the shared desire for a collective partnership approach through Climate Ready Aberdeenshire and even highlighted key actors to engage.

Identifying Stakeholders

  • The council used an array of avenues to identify stakeholders to speak with about the establishment of Climate Ready Aberdeenshire including:
  • Undertaking a region wide Local Climate Impacts Profile (LCLIP) identified contacts across the public, private and third sector who had already been affected by climate impacts.
  • Reviewing climate adaptation strategies from other regions and sectors was found useful to highlight which type of organisations should be involved.
  • Using existing contacts and snowballing from there. Don’t be afraid to ask – who else should be in the room? This can help identify organisations and individuals beyond the usual suspects. For their initial engagement events, Climate Ready Aberdeenshire had to book new venue because of oversubscribed demand due to word of mouth.
  • Using social media. Aberdeenshire Council found promoting their work and events via Twitter and LinkedIn very helpful.

Governance Arrangements

Partnership working can be underpinned and formalised through a range of governance mechanisms. For Climate Ready Aberdeenshire, a steering group oversees the strategic direction of the partnership. Their work is supported through thematic working groups, who can seek advice from their advisory contacts. Terms of Reference were developed for both the steering and working groups outlining specific roles, responsibilities and remits of each.

Outwith Climate Ready Aberdeenshire, Aberdeenshire Council actively engages with and learns from partners. For instance, the council’s climate lead regularly meets with other climate officers at Aberdeen City Council and Highland Council to learn from their adaptation activities. This informal partnership is valuable for exchange of knowledge and lessons learnt.

Further information on the progress of Climate Ready Aberdeenshire can be found in their 2020 Annual Report.

Next Steps

Aberdeenshire Council are currently developing their council Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, due to be published by the end of 2021. For Climate Ready Aberdeenshire, in 2021 they will focus on developing their strategy with their partners and stakeholders while they prepare for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow in November 2021. They aim to have their draft strategy out for public consultation at the beginning of 2022 and the final strategy released at the end of 2022. Between 2022 and 2030 they will implement the Climate Ready Aberdeenshire action plan with long term delivery of these actions from 2031 onwards as we head towards Scotland’s Net Zero Target in 2045. To stay up to date with project updates please contact Aberdeenshire Council Sustainability & Climate Change Officer and Climate Ready Aberdeenshire Project Lead [email protected]


Top tips and learning for other organisations

What top three learnings, suggestions or pieces of advice would you offer other public bodies using the Adaptation Capability Framework?

  • Use the Starter Pack first. Making contacts and networking supported by starter park the Starter Pack was useful for laying the groundwork for effective adaptation action
  • Spend time networking. Make use of existing projects to identify relevant contacts and snowball from there.
  • Identify initial project aims. Drafting preliminary goals can help support early engagement with partners. Have a clear aim to work towards but recognise that progress fluctuates – the Benchmarking Tool can help track progress across the capability tasks.