Rural Responses to Climate Change

Convenor: Liz Dinnie, James Hutton Institute, Scotland

Statement of Aims

The aims of this study group are to consider the different ways in which rural communities, businesses and local authorities across Europe are affected by climate change, and the different ways in which they respond, covering both adaptation and mitigation.


Responses to climate change in rural areas come in different forms. For some, climate change offers opportunities to re-localise services and develop small-scale social enterprise through, for example, grassroots-led initiatives in food, energy, waste and transport. Opportunities for communities and landowners also arise through the development of renewable energy production. Such activities have an impact at the local level as well as at a national level where they help to meet targets for reducing carbon emissions.

Rural communities also face adverse effects of climate change such as increased risk of flooding, or changes in crop production due to changing weather patterns. Rural areas may be more vulnerable to changes because of elderly populations, inadequate or hard-to-heat housing, and poor services. But rural areas may also have greater resilience to climate change, depending on their capacity to adapt and take advantage of opportunities such as those mentioned above.

The European Union is seeking to address climate change through a number of measures, most notably through the establishment of national targets for renewable energy production. Renewable energy represents both an economic opportunity for rural communities and land owners, as well as a challenge to social cohesion, with increasing public concerns about the winners and losers. The development of renewable energy, particularly in the form of onshore wind, is a visible sign of this and many communities are now benefitting from the income that this provides. There is also an active transition network supporting hundreds of small-scale initiatives, some of which are developing into social enterprises or even small businesses. There is controversy too, with increasing fuel poverty in some areas, claims that renewables are damaging to the environment and have an adverse effect on tourism. Researchers at the James Hutton Institute are involved in research projects in these areas, including the FP7 project TESS, and the Scottish Government’s Strategic Programme.


Dominic Duckett

Lee-Ann Sutherland

Menelaos Gkartzios