Carbon Neutral Islands

Project Information

The Carbon Neutral Islands (CNI) project aims to support six island communities towards achieving net zero by 2040, acting as Lighthouse Communities in Scotland’s decarbonisation journey. The project is led by the island communities to determine their own pathway and each island has now produced a Climate Action Plan based on the ideas and priorities identified by the people living there. The next phase of the project will involve taking these plans forward into real tangible actions that will help decarbonise local economies, increase resilience to climate change, and provide wider social and economic benefits.  

The six islands have produced CNI Community Climate Action Plans: 

In May 2022, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands announced that six Scottish islands would be supported by the Carbon Neutral Islands project: Barra & Vatersay, Cumbrae, Hoy & Walls, Islay, Raasay, and Yell, representing one island from each of the local authority areas with responsibility for inhabited islands in Scotland.  

The CNI Project is a Scottish Government commitment that aims to demonstrate the climate-resilience and low carbon potential of islands by 2040. The CNI project will help to deliver key commitments in the National Islands Plan and the National Performance Framework, create island-based jobs, and support islands to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The project aims to align with wider net-zero and decarbonisation efforts and will contribute to the Scottish Government’s statutory target to reach net zero by 2045

Drivers underpinning the Carbon Neutral Islands Project

The CNI project is underpinned by the following key drivers: alignment, justice and inclusion, and replicability. 

Alignment: The project aims to align with existing island-based climate change actions and to avoid duplication of efforts.  

Justice and inclusion: The project will support islands to become carbon neutral in a just and fair way.  

Replicability: The work is being completed to standardised and agreed methodologies wherever possible to allow replication and direct comparison.  

Project Structure

The project is led by community development officers (CDOs) on each island, employed by the local anchor organisation and working with a steering group of community representatives. Local knowledge and trusted relationships are key to effective community engagement, ensuring the project is driven by, and reflects, the concerns of the island communities. 

Support is provided by the Scottish Government Islands Team: Community Energy Scotland, Scottish Communities Climate Action Network, Sniffer, Aquatera, and external project partners​.  

The six Local Anchor Organisations are Voluntary Action Barra and VatersayCumbrae Community Development CouncilIsland of Hoy Development Trust,  Islay Energy TrustRaasay Development Trust and North Yell Development Council.

The CNI Process

Carbon Audit Overview

Carbon audits have been completed to measure and monitor baseline emissions across key sectors for each island – Energy; Transport; Waste; Agriculture; and Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). The audits follow the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Inventories, and IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories

The Scottish Blue Carbon Forum are also working to include blue (marine) carbon in the UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory. A ‘Habitat Suitability Study’ is in development within the CNI project framework to estimate blue carbon potential for the islands.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is built around the following core principles: 

Relevance 

Completeness 

Consistency 

Transparency 

Accuracy 

In alignment with these principles, and to ensure effective benchmarking, the audits are intended to be island-led and replicable by local communities. By using local expertise, the data used is both robust and specific to the islands. Where possible, existing audits and supporting data have been used, and data has been provided by island residents or verified by local experts. 

Community Climate Action Plans

Next Steps

The next stage of the CNI project will refine the communities’ actions into detailed proposals. The actions will be evaluated in terms of their cost, feasibility, carbon impact, and wider benefits to the community. This will lead to the development of detailed community investment strategies. 

It is essential the actions are led by and developed for the community. This requires the communities to lead on immediate actions by taking advantage of ‘quick wins’ and working on longer-term plans. Most actions require collaboration, so building partnerships in both the public and private sectors is critical. This will allow the communities to make tangible progress towards their own visions of a decarbonised future. 

Going forward, the CNI Project aims to benefit other Scottish Islands by sharing learnings from the six ‘lighthouse’ islands. A Climate Action Handbook for island communities will present the resources developed through the project, and knowledge sharing events will showcase good practices and lessons learned from the project. 


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