Find out how Dundee City Council is developing climate policies by prioritising residents most at risk of extreme weather events and fuel poverty. Prioritising those most at risk is Action 11 in the 50-point Climate Action Plan for Councils.

24 Apr 2024

How is Action 11 tackling the climate crisis?

Over 10,000 UK neighbourhoods are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis. Generally, people living in these areas are the least responsible for the crisis and are least equipped to respond. Some impacts of climate change are already locked in even if we take robust action on mitigation.

Dundee City Council is developing climate policies by identifying residents most at risk of extreme weather events and fuel poverty, and targeting support at these groups. This is a fairer approach to tackling climate change because it protects those most at risk from the climate crisis.

Dundee City Council has calculated that 31% of the city's households are affected by fuel poverty, which is above the Scottish national average. The city’s location also leaves it vulnerable to extreme, unpredictable weather events such as flooding.

The council has worked hard to identify vulnerable community members before developing climate adaptation policies. It created a risk and vulnerability assessment plan mapping out the threat posed by climate change in 10 defined policy sectors, with supporting actions to help people at greatest risk from these dangers adapt to face them.

By using digital tools and resources such as the Place Standard Tool, ClimateView and Climate Just, the council was able to understand where people are facing social deprivation and are most vulnerable to climate threats.

The authority is also partnering with the NHS to build a risk register, pulled together by a Risk Management Officer (a role created by NHS Tayside but based at the council), to foster collaboration on winter management plans. This register will identify residents facing extreme weather such as storms, flooding and snow. It will also record the impacts that these events can have, such as interruptions in power supply, heating and water. The tool will help adapt winter management plans into climate risk plans.

What impact has the project had?

So far, actions by the council have re-negotiated over £175,000 of fuel bills, supported over 600 households to receive lower fuel bills through social tariffs, aided with dampness and condensation problems, and given out over 9,000 low-energy light bulbs.

A key tool for delivery developed by the council is the creation of the Dundee Energy Efficiency Advice Project (DEEAP). This advice group plays a significant role in tackling fuel poverty by advising on energy efficiency measures and fuel tariffs, and offering tips on reducing energy bills such as negotiating debts with energy suppliers.

In terms of monitoring the wider impact of Dundee’s climate action plans, the council has begun to work closely with the University of Dundee to create impact assessments on how policies are affecting vulnerable communities.

In terms of impact internally, the local authority is now working closely with all departments within the council to embed climate resilience into service plans, which will explicitly require services to assist and support vulnerable communities in relation to climate change.

What made this work?

Collaboration is key

A key success factor has been collaborating with local resilience partnerships and NHS Tayside. Tayside Local Resilience Partnership played an important role in contributing to local action plans to protect vulnerable people in the case of extreme weather events.

Meanwhile, partnership with NHS Tayside has allowed for the development of the risk register, as well as an NHS climate risk plan and active green health partnership in Dundee.

Staff training

Staff were given training on climate justice and social deprivation related to local areas before council climate plans and actions were devised. This training was carried out by an external party for staff on Dundee’s Sustainability and Climate Change team, with broader carbon literacy provided for senior management staff. This helped ensure that these themes were reflected in climate adaptation policies, and that staff better understood the overlap between climate impacts and social vulnerabilities in Dundee, which led to better-targeted policies.

What resources were needed?

Dundee City Council was able to carry out its climate vulnerability planning with a sustainability team of 2 staff members, as well as its new Risk Management Officer. In order to implement further policies, carry out further carbon analysis of council actions and deliver wider public engagement on council climate policies, the council has expanded its sustainability team to 5 staff.

Lessons from Dundee

A cross-departmental approach helps with funding

Funding larger projects remains a fundamental challenge for the council. Climate change is now at the forefront of the council's leadership and projects since its declaration of a climate emergency, which means some resource has been made available for staff costs and communications.

However, it's still difficult to access funding for specific projects. A key learning from the climate change team at the council is to be versatile and work on climate adaptation across departments such as air quality, housing and energy. This can allow access to further pockets of funding while also embedding climate action across council departments.

Engaging residents is key for social justice

Dundee residents face many social vulnerabilities, with poverty above the national average. Understanding which climate policies will be effective and welcome by more vulnerable residents requires significant community engagement. 

The council has pioneered the use of democratic participatory budgeting by establishing the Dundee Climate Fund. Dundee residents choose how this money is spent by voting for project proposals they like best. Proposed projects come under several different themes: energy, transport, waste, resilience and community engagement. This process empowers communities and gets them engaged in projects that are reducing climate impacts in Dundee, while helping residents to become more resilient and develop solutions that promote social justice. 

The first round of voting for the Fund closed in March 2023, and the second round opened in January 2024. Twelve local projects are benefiting from a share of around £385,000 from the first round. The projects voted to receive funding from the first round of the Dundee Climate Fund included:

  • Grow Dundee, a food growing network within the city. The network brings multiple partners together to address food insecurity, as well as promote the environmental and health benefits of locally grown food. The network hosts a range of activities, from gardening workshops to wildlife storytelling, and also has a gardening tool and seed library.  
  • Dundee Bairns, which received funding for an electric van for its deliveries. The charity provides free meals and clothing to children and young people in all areas of Dundee.

Friends of the Earth's view

It’s essential that council action to tackle the climate crisis is done in a way that also addresses inequalities in their communities. By looking at joined-up solutions, Dundee is delivering greater benefits to the city and its residents, including lower fuel bills and greater resilience to extreme weather.

It’s also important that councils engage vulnerable communities in decision making (Action 12 of the Climate Action Plan).

Friends of the Earth is showcasing specific examples of good practice in tackling climate change, but that doesn’t mean we endorse everything that council is doing. 

This case study was produced by Ashden and Friends of the Earth. It was originally published in February 2022 and was last updated in April 2024. 

Climate Action