Climate Action Towns Toolkit

A toolkit to support people in towns and communities across Scotland to take place-based climate actions

Young people gathering around a table looking at a map


Delivering climate action in your town can be daunting. With this toolkit we take you through the process as followed by the Climate Action Towns team, and the tools used. This helps to break it down into manageable steps.

To get started in your town, you can follow the complete process or jump to a specific stage. We have included printable tools at each stage for you to download and use, as well as links to other useful resources.

To understand how we applied the tools and techniques set out on this page, you can find more in the Learning from the Climate Action Towns report.

Find out more

Introducing the toolkit

An overview of how Climate Action Towns used a range of tools on the project
Getting started toolkit icon

Getting started

It is important to understand what your place needs. There are a few ways in which you can bring together different voices from the community to identify what matters and what motivates your community to take action. 

Tools for getting started

The Climate Action Towns team found that having a structured launch event enabled a strong response from participants at the start of the climate action journey.  

A launch event signals an intent to proceed in a structured manner that delivers a strong message to potential participants – ‘we are taking this seriously and you should too.’ 

Our experience

"Hosting a launch event and setting out a clear vision is a great starting point, and gets participants engaged and active in the project."

It can be difficult to know where to start. Stakeholder mapping allows that start-up to happen in a constructive and structured manner, looking at what communities, groups and people might be able to contribute on the climate action journey.  

By mapping relationships across your place, a strategy can be put in place to encourage as much participation as possible across diverse groups. 

Our experience

"The Climate Action Towns team recognise that taking a whole-place collaborative approach requires a strong network of local collaborators. We undertook various stakeholder mapping exercises in the towns, recorded who we had spoken to, and then built on that by asking who else should be involved. This iterative process enabled us to build comprehensive stakeholder maps."

Understanding climate risk toolkit icon

Understanding climate risks in your place

What are the key impacts of climate change in your town? Use mapping, adaptation workshops and community surveys to understand current and future risks in your area, and ways to act.

Tools for understanding climate risks

Climate adaptation workshops are designed to map out barriers, risks and opportunities in a particular location. 

It is an interactive process, enhanced by light touch learnings around climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience. This gives participants a grounding in both the methods and language of local climate work.

Our experience

"In Blackburn, the climate adaptation workshop brought together forty-seven participants from across the community and local authority. Through the facilitated workshop they were able to understand the climate risks relevant to Blackburn, note what they had seen, what they expected to see and suggest adaptation measures that could work for their place. This was all mapped and subsequently informed the Blackburn Local Place Plan."

The Place Standard with a Climate Lens is a web resource that enables communities to assess the current and future impacts of climate change in their place, and how they might go about future-proofing their villages, towns, and cities to adapt to these impacts.

This resource is a good place to start if you are starting from scratch with no previous work looking at climate in your town or area.

The outputs from this tool aim to cut across planning, health, climate, biodiversity, transport, and many other themes, painting a cohesive picture of the positives and negatives of a place.

Our experience

"In Holytown, we delivered multiple sessions using the Place Standard with a Climate Lens with a range of groups and demographics. These discussions identified concurrent themes and issues, affecting various different community groups. This helped shape a picture of issues and aspirations, including a desire for more park areas."

In the Climate Action Towns project, we have used mapping extensively throughout the community engagement process. We have found that people relate to maps as a way of discussing their place. It is a powerful tool to engage with the past, the present and the future. Mapping is also a great visual medium to record ideas, interactions and risks that people identify in their place.

Producing a large-scale printed map can be difficult without an understanding of where to get the information from and how to manipulate it to frame your place and its surrounding environments.

Producing a physical map

This guide is a step-by-step instruction for producing a map for free. Unfortunately, the printing part is not free, but we will show you how to do it for minimal cost and produce a re-usable map.

  1. Download QGIS – QGIS is a free GIS mapping software application that runs on PC and MAC. The downloads are here and if you want to gain a basic understanding of what Geographic Information System mapping is, then please read this guide
  2. Watch our video in the link below, which explains how to use the software.
  3. Send your print to an online printer, picking a uPVC banner option. We would normally advocate against a plastic map but as it can be reused multiple times it is the best option. Paper copies can be purchased, as an alternative.

Using online maps 

If you want to map online (and we would not recommend that for in-person workshops) to produce a live map of community projects or climate risks, for example, then the following online mapping applications can be used to input local data and create your own map. This is particularly useful for sharing at a community level, through websites or social media.

Climate and biodiversity mapping

There are many mapping resources on the web detailing climate change and the biodiversity crisis. Below are a number of useful links relating to mapping of different issues.

Collaboration toolkit icon

Understanding your community capacity

Taking climate action, like any community action, relies on strong community capacity. A constituted group can help your community to deliver change and apply for funding.

Collective effort is needed to embed climate actions. Building partnerships and collaborations between community groups, local authorities and other organisations is helpful.

Tools for understanding your community capacity

Systems thinking is an approach for holistically understanding a topic, and how it functions as part of a wider system.

The systems map workshop aims to bring together different people and organisations to discuss and understand the underlying barriers to taking climate action in your place. The map helps you identify strengths and weaknesses, and prioritise where to focus your efforts.

By understanding the systems working in a town, it can enable participants to plug gaps, seek help and focus energies where they are best placed.

Our experience

"In Invergordon, an event at the leisure centre brought together people from across the town and local authority to understand how the town works at a community level. By looking at the town through the prism of a systems map, they could explore what works and how, across a range of categories - including local leadership, sense of agency and community capacity."

An external resource from Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) which enables you to assess capacity levels in your community; exploring what does and does not work, who works together and who does not, identifying the conflicts and how these could be overcome, what skills exist in a town to move things forward and how to fill the gaps.

Climate Action Towns have used these workshops, delivered by SCDC, to explore capacity and cohesion in a number of the towns. These provide not only a picture of strengths and gaps in knowledge, but also suggestions of how everyone can work together to improve their place.

Our experience

"We used the Building Stronger Communities workshops in Invergordon to bring community groups together and explore how they could work better. Three workshops (with soup and sandwiches – food is key!) were well attended and the discussions robust. The outcome was an umbrella working group in the town that could identify strong common goals, whilst understanding knowledge or capacity gaps and how to fill them. As a direct result of these workshops, a Community Action Plan was initiated in November 2023."

Ideas toolkit icon

Developing ideas for action

Work together using co-design, workshops and idea generation to identify the best climate actions for your place.

Use prioritisation exercises to pick your climate action ideas and to agree on who can deliver the projects. These can be embedded in a community plan to enable action.

Tools to develop ideas for action

A simple game that asks participants eight questions about their place, and can be tailored to any subject or eventuality. It is a useful starting point to find out the underlying issues in a community, and a great way of drawing people into the climate conversation. 

We found that the Eight Principles of a Carbon Conscious Place work well as prompts for ideas, see download sheet below. 

Our experience

"We used Crazy 8s as a way of encouraging ideas, and building confidence to come up with solutions. In Blackburn, we found people were happy to talk about climate change, and agreed on the need to act, but struggled to come up with creative ideas. Using this game with Change in Blackburn committee and the Women's Social Services group, many suggestions were proposed which fed into an illustration imagining Blackburn in the future, adapted to the changing climate."

The second of the climate adaptation workshops takes the learnings from the first, and looks at identifying deliverable local adaptation projects. 

Participants are asked to use their local knowledge to suggest potential projects in their place. These projects are then assessed for feasibility by the group (cost, effort, time, capacity etc) and a shortlist is drawn up of projects that might work. The group then looks at a prioritisation of these projects, and engaging with leaders and supporters in the community who can help to make things happen.

Our experience

"In Campbeltown, the community undertook the second climate adaptation workshop in order to look at projects that addressed climate needs in the town. Working through a prioritisation exercise, they established a clear set of objectives. This became the Climate Action Addendum to the Community Action Plan, published in Jan 2024."

The eight principles of a carbon conscious place were drawn up by Architecture and  Design Scotland to support a holistic approach to designing and adapting places, with a view to reducing, repurposing and absorbing carbon. These principles were used as a touchstone throughout the Climate Action Towns project. 

Engagement with local groups and people around the climate agenda was at its strongest when it was led by the community, echoing the fourth principle - 'a place designed for and with local people’.

Our experience

"In Stevenston, our engagement with local groups and communities led to them producing a Climate Adaptation Plan for the town. By using a 'place-led approach' (principle one of the eight principles) which places mapping and engagement as the key driver for gathering information, the community came up with place-specific issues to tackle - including coastal erosion, flooding and tree planting."

Plans toolkit icon

Making climate action happen

A shared plan will help generate action and build common goals. Embedding your proposals for climate action in a Community Action Plan or Local Place Plan - co-designed with your community - helps look at the range of actions together focussing on a place. It also serves as strong evidence in a funding application. 

Put your plan into action and work together to maintain momentum, and share your successes.

Tools for making climate action happen

Across our work in the nine towns, we sought to formalise the climate agenda by working within the context of local authority planning considerations. By developing workable plans within the perimeters of local decision making structures, we can ensure a greater chance of making climate actions happen.

Our focus was on two types of plans, a Local Place Plan and a Community Action Plan.

The validity of focussing on one or other of the plans depends on the type of community aspirations, the local authority support, as well as the capacity in the place.

A Local Place Plan is a statutory instrument that is intended to feed community aspirations directly into the Local Development Plan. It is more spatial in nature than a Community Action Plan, requiring a mapped response showing where things could happen in the place, such as new social housing or an extended greenspace.

Our experience 

"In Benarty, the ongoing work to develop the Local Place Plan seeks to focus on the long term economic and environmental outcomes for the town and its communities. The Local Place Plan process includes a refresh of the Community Action Plan, being driven by a climate agenda. The community groups working on the plan recognise the opportunity to address a number of issues affecting the town, such as better active travel links. By linking into the existing Fife-wide active travel network would benefit the town, and could potentially reduce transport poverty in the area."

A Community Action Plan is a statement of intent for a place covering various aspects that the community would like to see improved or delivered. 

Our experience 

"In Invergordon, a survey was produced by the Umbrella Group within the town to ensure that community voices are at the heart of the Community Action Plan. This plan will go on to advise the wider Easter Ross Area-based Place Plan (a variation on a Local Place Plan), which is currently in development."

Throughout the Climate Action Towns project, we have been keen to share and learn from other climate actions taking place across Scotland, and use them to inspire others to get involved. Our web resource, ‘Taking action on climate change’ sits on our website, and is designed to bring together examples as a source of inspiration.

Using the Eight principles of a carbon conscious place we engaged with a number of projects to present a positive and achievable message of success in a number of projects across Scotland. These stories are driven by communities for communities.

The examples on the web resource (link below) demonstrate what can be achieved when capacity, cohesion and agency align.

Our experience

"This webpage shares inspiring stories of different communities and organisations taking action on the impacts of climate change, that aligns with the work undertaken by Climate Action Towns.

They highlight the diversity of climate action, from large-scale projects to small-scale initiatives. They also show how climate action can benefit people and communities, both environmentally and economically."

Find out more about our Climate Action Towns project

Our work across nine towns in Scotland supported the delivery of relevant, place appropriate climate actions. Over a 3-year project we have worked within each town to co-design the priorities of each place, identify opportunities, build capacity and support, and enable collaborations.

To find out more about the overall project visit our webpage here 

A summary and reflections from the 3-year project can be found via the link below