Low carbon Scotland

Get involved in working towards a net zero Scotland. Together we can create a better, more sustainable future.

Working our way towards a low carbon future

Climate change is one of the greatest threats the world's population faces. We need to act now in both our personal and professional lives to ensure we are all working towards global net zero targets. And that means doing things differently.  

Change can be scary – but it doesn’t have to be. Over the course of this year alone, we’ve all had to change our lives and operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And believe it or not, some of that change has been positive, particularly when we think about climate change. Among all of the difficulties we’ve encountered, we’ve also shown how as a society, we can make big changes in how we live our lives quickly.

Scotland: A Net Zero Nation

Scotland declared a global climate change emergency in April 2019. The need to take action is more urgent that ever. As part of the global effort to fight the climate emergency, Scotland has set an ambitious target to become 'Net Zero' by 2045, five years ahead of the rest of the UK. Read more about what that means and what's involved in making change on the website. 

Low carbon in the Highlands and Islands

Hear about the challenges and opportunities available in the Highlands and Islands whilst working towards a net zero Scotland by 2045.

We have a proven track record of world firsts in renewable energy and innovation. This provides a solid foundation for the future and the opportunity to create jobs across the region.

GlenWyvis Distillery

GlenWyvis is a community owned distillery on the outskirts of Dingwall in Ross-shire. Setting them apart from other distillers in the region is their commitment to a low carbon footprint and sustainable future.

The distillery is powered by a wind turbine, solar panels and a hydro scheme. Have a look at our short video to find out more.

Developing an advanced tidal turbine

Tidal power uses the movement in our tides and oceans to generate clean, predictable energy.

Nova Innovation, along with partners, have created an advanced tidal turbine that's robust, reliable and cost competitive with fossil fuels. Hear more about the innovation in our short film.

Orbital Marine Power

Orbital Marine Power is an innovative Scottish company with the ambition to help in the fight against climate change by introducing a new form of renewable power to the world.

In 2016 they launched the world’s most powerful tidal turbine at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney. Have a look at this video to hear more about the world firsts delivered by Orbital in Scotland and the exciting news of their latest development.


At the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), near Oban, marine scientists are working on projects to develop our knowledge around cultivating seaweed.

By developing a better understanding of the production cycle the objective is to help create a vibrant industry. But more than that an industry which is actively helping to lower carbon levels and provide alternative food sources for people, animals and plants.


A transition to Net Zero

Most are familiar with the target of net zero emissions by 2045 but less familiar with the interim target of 70% reductions by 2030, less than 10 years away. The 2020 target of a 56% reduction is only likely to be met because lockdown restrictions have constrained emissions temporarily notes the Committee on Climate Change

We are transitioning to a net-zero emissions Scotland for the benefit of our environment, our people, and our prosperity.

Scotland’s world-leading climate change legislation sets a target date for net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. 

The Scottish Government is updating its Climate Change Plan to reflect the increased ambition of the new targets set in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019.  

Actions outlined include: 

Read more on the Scottish Government website

Net zero is a formidable target for Scotland but achievable. Consequences of not meeting it are severe. Quite simply, we can expect an increase in extreme weather events like flooding & landslides and a change to the climate that may create food shortages
Zoe Laird, Regional Head of Communities Infrastructure , HIE

Supporting your transition 

To meet the net zero emissions targets, we all must play our part. It’s not as simple as looking at renewable energy generation, collectively we all need to convert heating and transport to low or zero emissions. But it doesn’t stop there, and this is where the circular economy comes into play.


So, what exactly is a circular economy? A circular economy is a universal approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment. Working towards a circular economy means looking at how we reduce everyday waste, identify how we can better use finite resources and move towards a more regenerative approach in everything we do – personally and professionally.  

We need improved design to remove waste and reuse materials that require high carbon levels to extract and manufacture, such as plastics. This means looking at new manufacturing processes and new infrastructure. It also means we need to change our personal consumption habits.

HIE and Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) have teamed up to kick off an exciting partnership to develop a more circular economy for the Highlands and Islands. To support this work, ZWS now has dedicated resource working across the region to help businesses, social enterprises and communities embrace the benefits of making the best use of the world’s limited natural resources.

Get support from HIE and ZWS to start your transition

Read more +

Additional support and funding options

With additional economic pressures and challenges brought about by COVID-19, new funding streams and support programmes have been made available. Have a look and start your transition journey. 

  • Community Climate Asset Fund - £3.5 million to help deliver climate-friendly projects The Community Climate Asset Fund will provide grants of up to £100,000 for projects supporting community climate action including those that boost energy efficiency in community buildings, and that enable the purchase of electric bikes and vehicles. Smaller grants of up to £10,000 will support active travel and waste reduction projects and enable community groups and schools to purchase tools and equipment for food growing projects. Applications for the fund are open now, with projects to be completed by the end of March 2021. The fund is being administered by Keep Scotland Beautiful

  • Green Recovery - Low Carbon Energy Project Capital Funding An expression of interest form and guidance is available now for those looking for funding to stimulate and accelerate the delivery of low carbon energy opportunities across Scotland, including the provision of support for projects in urban, rural, island and remote parts of Scotland and areas that are off gas grid.

  • £1 million available through new Agricultural Transformation Programme to help farmers diversify into forestry.

  • The Energy Savings Trust can support individuals, businesses and communities work towards a carbon neutral future. 

  • Local Energy Scotland manage the Scottish Government's Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES). They give communities, businesses and other organisations advice and funding in all aspects of local, renewable energy.


Low Carbon Heat industry research study – online survey

We're working with market research consultancy, Optimat Limited, to carry out a study of companies active in the low carbon heat industry in Scotland.  

The purpose of the study is to provide us with a better understanding of the potential barriers to future growth of low carbon heat companies and what support would help increase the value of low carbon heat projects secured by Scottish based companies. The study will inform the development of support services for the low carbon heat sector.

We would be very grateful if you would consider participating in a short online survey that should take between 10-15 minutes to complete. 

Take the online survey 

If you have any queries about the study or would like further information, please contact: John Taylor, Project Manager, Optimat Ltd on 01355 272800 or email

Leading by example

We’ve all had to learn how to live in a new world recently with the impacts of COVID-19. Businesses and communities across the region have had to learn to adapt to the restrictions imposed and the change in consumer habits as a result. In terms of climate change, it’s not all been bad, and many are now seeing a positive aspect to the enforced changes by successfully diversifying what they do. Others have been doing things differently for some time and have been actively seeking out more environmentally friendly practices leading to positive sustainability and growth. Have a look at their stories.


A lack of quality fruit and vegetables available locally inspired Nortenergy to develop Polycrub. The social enterprise set up by the Northmavine Community Development Company operates in the northernmost peninsula of mainland Shetland. Polycrub enables fruit and vegetables to be grown undercover in extreme climates. Its design includes recycling waste salmon farm piping, which is readily available. The popularity of Polycrub has grown well beyond Shetland, including recent exports to the Falkland Islands. Selling Polycrub kits has become a key trading activity for Nortenergy.


Adapting to a virtual museum experience

While COVID-19 may have disrupted the heritage sector in the short-term, organisations such as West Highland Museum have grabbed the opportunity to diversify in the face of adversity. Through XpoNorth Digital, West Highland Museum connected with the University of St Andrews, which has led to some exciting projects on the horizon.

West Highland Museum

Using food waste to tackle plastic pollution

CuanTec has developed a world-first method for biologically extracting a naturally occurring polymer, chitin, from waste langoustine shells and converting this to the base material for plastic-free food packaging.

Celtic Crustacean Collaboration

Innovative approach to environmental change

Skyeskyns is the only remaining commercial woolskin tannery in Scotland. Based in Waternish on the Isle of Skye. In 2018, the business identified a more environmentally friendly tanning process and turned to HIE's innovation team for help.


Renewable Parts

Renewable Parts is a supplier of new and refurbished turbine parts to the global wind energy sector, employing 8 staff in Lochgilphead in Argyll. They are passionate about the circular economy with a strong vision of how to make the industry greener.

Renewable Parts

Clean Islands

Seven of the region’s islands working together on an international project to lower carbon emissions associated with heat, transport and electricity supplies for residents, have published their transition agenda. The islands of Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna, Fair Isle, Foula and the peninsula of Knoydart were selected last year as ‘pioneering islands’ in the Clean Energy for EU Islands programme and have now developed decarbonisation pathways.

Clean Islands

Reducing single-use plastics - have your say

The environmental threat to ecosytems from single-use plastic is a hot topic around climate change. But why is plastic such a big problem? Many people may not know but plastics are made from fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal so reducing their use will help reduce emissions.

The issue of plastic use is now being tackled at government level with the Scottish Government launching a consultation around plans to ban some of the most environmentally damaging single-use plastic items in Scotland, including plastic cutlery and plastic straws.

Views are being sought on the introduction of new legislation to restrict the sale or commercial supply of plastic plates, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, polystyrene food and drink containers, plastic balloon sticks and products made from oxo-degradable plastics.

Millions are used in Scotland each year, including an estimated 300 million plastic straws, 276 million pieces of plastic cutlery, 50 million plastic plates and 66 million polystyrene food containers. The consultation is open for 12 weeks and closes on 04 January 2021. Have your say.


Orkney is at the forefront of a global green revolution.

Focusing on our region’s strengths

For HIE, it’s important that we find ways to help businesses and communities make the transition in an inclusive, propitiate way. We need to consider, more so now than ever before due to the impacts COVID-19 has had on the economy, how the transition affects and creates jobs for the future. Within our region, we can lead the way to future ways of producing and consuming, helping others adapt their processes, their markets and their plans to reconcile.

Our approach to net zero focuses on the abundant resources across our region. Our natural capital is amongst the most resourceful and plentiful in the world. For example, our marine environment and coastline are extensive offering significant opportunity for energy generation, marine science, marine manufacturing and aquaculture.

It’s also well known that our record in world firsts in renewable energy technology development and deployment provides a solid foundation for deploying low carbon energy systems. We will continue to build on the successes of our world-leading renewable energy sector across the region with offshore wind, energy integration in the North Sea, scope for large scale hydrogen production and commercial scale wave and tidal developments in the longer term, offering business and job opportunities in every part of our region.

Increased offshore wind ambition by 2030 The Scottish Government has set a new ambition to increase offshore wind capacity to 11 gigawatts (GW) of energy installed by 2030 – enough to power more than eight million homes.

The aim of substantially increasing the offshore wind capacity in Scottish waters supports the delivery of Scotland’s 2017 Energy Strategy and the decarbonisation of heat and transport and has been agreed following an extensive consultation with industry, stakeholders, coastal communities and environmental organisations.



Single project support

Maximising our region's competitive advantage

We’re working with partners across multiple sectors looking at where the real potential for change is. Food and drink, tourism, construction, and transports sectors present great opportunities.

Our region’s island geography combined with renewable resources and strong test and demonstration experience, is the perfect combination to support sustainable aviation testing.

The increasing use of green hydrogen offers changes to ferries and trains and heavy goods transport as well. We can relate our need for population regrowth and increased housing availability to moves to strengthening the timber sector and improving its value to the construction industry building on the work of our innovation centres such as the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC).

Beyond those global technologies and their development, there are other sectors in our economy which can find competitive advantage in ‘being green’.

  • Our region has the basis for a globally competitive eco-tourism market; a zero-carbon destination. The competitiveness of this market can be further enhanced by our increasing interest in local food supplies and low food mileage.
  • Innovations in horticulture and new ways of doing business are opening new markets for both businesses and social enterprises.
  • Our cultural offering is unique and being encouraged by Creative Scotland to use its influence to motivate and empower citizens to act differently, in a way which is compatible with net zero.
  • The importance of land management including peatland restoration, afforestation and soil condition are reframing the way communities and businesses extract their value from the land.