Climate adaptation: letter to UK Climate Change Committee

Letter from Transport, Net Zero and Justice Transition Cabinet Secretary setting out initial response to climate change risks.

To: Baroness Brown of Cambridge, Adaptation Committee Chair, Climate Change Committee
From: Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition 

Dear Baroness Brown, 

I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to lead Scottish Government interests in the just transition to net zero, including climate change adaptation. I look forward to working with you and the Adaptation Committee of the Climate Change Committee to ensure that independent expert advice continues to inform the Scottish Government’s climate change policy, particularly as we develop our next adaptation programme in response to the third UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (UKCCRA3). 

In early 2022, Scottish Ministers duly adopted the UKCCRA, prepared by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and in March 2022 welcomed the CCC’s independent assessment of the current adaptation programme. As part of the independent advice, the CCC highlighted risk areas which “should be taken forward as critical adaptation policies at the highest levels of government in the next two years”. I am writing to you today to set out our initial response to these priority risk areas. This response indicates the direction of travel ahead of our full statutory response to the UKCCRA3 which will be laid in the Scottish Parliament in autumn 2024. 

Adapting to the current and future impacts of climate change is a clear priority for this government. In the First Minister’s policy prospectus “Equality, opportunity, community: New leadership - A fresh start”, I committed that by 2026, I will have “set out our plan for building resilience to the impacts that climate change is having and will increasingly have on communities and businesses, in our Adaptation Programme.” The 61 CCRA risks and opportunities have also been assigned to a Scottish Government Director who is responsible for mitigating the risk. This ensures that there is key accountability for delivering on adaptation across government. 

Each of the proposals and policies to address the priority risks have been prioritised according to multiple criteria and a cost benefit analysis including factors such as: the scope to address multiple risks through targeted actions, their contribution to the net zero and just transition agendas, and their deliverability.  

In another clear step towards achieving our climate ambitions, I recently announced the publication of a suite of materials relating to the development of three new Just Transition Plans. These discussion papers – relating to the Transport, Built Environment and Construction and Land Use and Agriculture sectors – represent a key step towards the development of Just Transition Plans for each of these sectors. We are clear that a just transition cannot be truly just when those who are most impacted by climate change are not able to adapt so our just transition must have adaptation and social justice at its core. 

The Scottish Government is committed to raising ambition and delivery on climate adaptation and I hope this letter underscores our dedication to a fairer and more resilient Scotland by 2045. I would like to invite you to meet with me to discuss our adaptation priorities and the next adaptation plan at a mutually convenient time. 

I look forward to receiving the CCC’s upcoming independent assessment of the current Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme which will assist us greatly in the development of the next Programme and accompanying monitoring and evaluation framework for publication next year.  

Yours sincerely, 

Mairi McAllan 

Annex: Interim policy package  

We recognise the need to take targeted and prioritised action to deliver climate change resilience. Following advice from the CCC that the current Adaptation Programme has a strong vision and outcomes structure, we are looking to build on this for the next Programme. In response to the priority risk areas, we have presented the policies below under the draft high-level outcomes covering the connectivity of the natural and lived environment, our communities, our public services and our businesses. A monitoring framework is also being developed which will use indicators to track progress to these long-term outcomes and the more specific objectives for the programme. 

  • Outcome 1: Nature connects across our land, settlements, coasts and seas
  • Outcome 2: Communities are shaping places and co-creating climate resilience solutions 
  • Outcome 3: Public services are people-centred, prepared and building resilience through leadership and collaboration 
  • Outcome 4: Businesses and industry are adapting, realising opportunities and securing supply of food, goods and vital services 

Nature connects across our land, settlements, coasts and seas  

  • we will publish dynamic 5-year delivery plans to support the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (SBS). Healthy, functional ecosystems are more resilient to climate change and the SBS includes specific actions across a wide range of policy areas - including forestry, marine, agriculture, wildlife management and conservation, peatland restoration, and planning - targeted at nature restoration and resilience. Actions include expanding Nature Networks, restoring 60,000ha in the Cairngorms national park, continuation of the Nature Restoration Fund, deer management planning, and nature-based solutions for coastal change, among others. The SBS 2022-2045 was published in December 2022 as a draft for consultation and will be supported by dynamic 5-year delivery plans, the first of which will be published for consultation in summer 2023
  • we will strengthen new legislation to include statutory nature restoration targets within the Natural Environment Bill. The SBS sets out a Strategic Delivery Framework of complementary elements, including a Natural Environment Bill to put in place statutory targets for nature restoration. I propose that adaptation is included as a consideration for the targets to ensure that habitats and landscapes are restored, thus improving their resilience to climate change impacts and providing a wide range of ecosystem services; such as flood risk management, sustainable food production, urban cooling, and health and wellbeing. Consultation on some elements of the Natural Environment Bill will take place in summer 2023
  • one of the three key objectives in the Scottish Forestry Strategy is to ‘improve the resilience of Scotland’s forests and woodlands and increase their contribution to a healthy and high quality environment’. Scottish Forestry have engaged with a national level stakeholder group on this issue are currently developing a building resilience work programme to ensure that Scotland’s forests are able to mitigate, adapt, respond and recover from disturbances related to climate change and attacks by pests and diseases. We are also working to meet our ambitious targets for woodland creation of 18,000 hectares by 2024/25, and these new woodland along with making a large contribution to net zero, will provide multiple other benefits for flood mitigation and biodiversity for example
  • we will continue with our programme of peatland restoration aiming to restore 250,000 hectares by 2030. This is integral to meeting our emissions reductions targets, however, restored peatland has significant value in terms of its ability to absorb excess rainwater, prevent flooding, reduce chances of wildfire and improve biodiversity and water quality
  • we will strengthen our knowledge base on Scotland’s blue carbon habitats, to better understand their extent, condition and vulnerability to climate change. Working in partnership with the Scottish Blue Carbon Forum and the wider UK and International blue carbon community, this will help us to consider and test blue carbon interventions across a range of climate scenarios to protect this valuable natural resource

Communities are shaping places and co-creating climate resilience solutions 

  • the Scottish Government will consult on a new National Flood Resilience Strategy for Scotland in 2023. This will form an integral part of the next adaptation programme. The aim of the strategy is to bring about a transformational change to managing flooding in response to the climate crisis, bringing together existing and new partners to deliver a broader range of flood resilience actions faster
  • the new National Planning Framework 4 includes cross-cutting measures to embed adaptation within the Scottish planning system. Specifically, to reduce heat risk it includes policy on heat and cooling that intends to ensure adaptation of buildings and places to more extreme temperatures, including by prioritising natural or passive solutions
  • our building regulations now include measures to address overheating in new homes and some other new residential buildings. New residential buildings must be designed and constructed in such a way that the risk to the health of the occupants from overheating is reduced, with developers asked to consider two of the key elements of design which can contribute to or mitigate overheating risk – management of excessive solar gain through glazing and the provision of ventilation to assist in cooling. Further consideration to be given to this topic as part of future review of energy and ventilation standards
  • we are keeping the public safe in hot weather through our Ready Scotland website ( and social media channels with advice and information about weather preparedness. The heatwave in July 2022 saw a coordinated and proactive information campaign using these and the main Scottish Government channels used to promote behaviours to minimise the negative impacts of the extreme heat, reaching over 1.2 million people across southern Scotland
  • we will improve our response to extreme weather events by facilitating the local authority roll out of the Persons at Risk Distribution (PARD) system across Scotland, which helps local authorities and the NHS to identify vulnerable individuals during an emergency. This is part of our Winter Preparedness Programme which aims to improve public communications, and provide welfare checks as part of a wide range of ‘care for people’ in the event of a power outage caused by a major storm event 

Public services are people-centred, prepared and building resilience through leadership and collaboration 

  • we are addressing current water scarcity issues by urging everyone to use water efficiently, businesses to put their water scarcity plans into action and we have reopened the emergency scheme to provide bottled water to any homes on private water supplies that need it

  • to address future water scarcity and other risks, we are developing policy options with a view to bringing forward new legislation to modernise and update the water industry to adapt to the extremes of climate change. This will consider measures to deal with increased frequencies of storms and increased temperatures on our water, sewerage and drainage services. We recognise that significant change will be required to ensure that public health and the environment are protected in years to come. We intend to consult on policies in autumn 2023
  • we are developing climate change risk assessments and adaptation plans for all Health Boards in Scotland. This is set out in the NHS Scotland climate emergency and sustainability strategy: 2022-2026 including extensive actions to adapt to climate change in ways that maximise positive environmental and health co-benefits
  • we are protecting the health of Scottish people during periods of adverse weather. Public Health Scotland is developing an Adverse Weather Health Protection Response Plan. The plan will be iterative, initially focusing on public health messaging
  • targeted action on overheating in buildings is needed in Scotland and we are actively exploring the role of the Green Public Sector Estate Decarbonisation Scheme in providing support for cooling measures in public sector residential buildings. We will also continue to work with the UKG to explore the cooling needs of our building stock, including via passive measures such as ventilation and shading, and learn from other countries with more experience of warmer climates to inform future policy development in this area
  • supported by the Scottish Government’s Adaptation Scotland programme, Scotland’s Nature Agency, NatureScot, will be publishing an adaptation plan for the organisation in Autumn 2023. This will ensure that NatureScot’s is prepared for climate change and the organisation continues to lead in promoting, caring for and improving Scotland’s nature and landscapes for Scotland’s people
  • Scottish Water is updating its climate change risk assessment to reflect the potential for 2 to 4 degrees of warming and the implications this will have for water and wastewater services. This work will support our strategic planning and investment to secure future service resilience for customers. Scottish Water is planning to publish its adaptation plan in late 2023
  • we are working with local authorities to improve the resilience of our valuable natural coastal defences which protect us from flooding. In February 2023, the Scottish Government published new Coastal Change Adaptation Planning Guidance to assist local authorities in developing coastal change adaptation plans. This guidance and associated funding help protect Scotland’s people and assets (including property, roads, rail and other infrastructure) from flooding caused by coastal erosion. The Scottish Government has committed £11.7m over four years to support local authorities in planning for coastal erosion and delivering early actions   
  • we are improving the resilience of Scotland’s transport network to climate change. Later this summer, Transport Scotland will publish an Approach to Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience (ACCAR) which sets out a framework and vision for preparing for and responding to climate impacts affecting Scotland’s transport system, such as flooding, landslides, scour and high winds. An accompanying Trunk Road Adaptation Plan (TRAP) will support the implementation of the ACCAR for Trunk Roads in Scotland  
  • Scotland will have a flourishing, climate friendly energy system that delivers affordable, resilient, clean energy supplies for Scotland’s households, communities, and businesses. This vision is set out in our draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, which was open for consultation from 10 January 2023 – 9 May 2023. Careful analysis of all responses will be carried out before preparation of the final publication. This includes proposals in answer to the consultation question “What more can Scottish Government do to increase the resilience of the energy system to the changing climate?” 
  • we will continue to seek to influence UK Government decision making to ensure Scottish interests are taken care of as pertaining to the security and resilience of energy infrastructure

Businesses and industries are adapting, realising opportunities and securing supply of food, goods and vital services 

  • we will engage with Scottish businesses to better understand the climate risks facing their operations and support them to increase their resilience to supply chain and other risks caused by climate change. This will include consultation on adaptation through existing engagement and surveys. Based on findings, we will consider amending advice and support to reflect industry needs and opportunities. Adaptation Scotland's new finance guide, business cases and resources for workers support its core Climate Ready Business guidance

  • we will press the UK Government to include measures to support adaptation in the environmental section of its negotiating mandate for future Free Trade Agreements (FTA). Support for such measures in the development of future UK wide trade arrangements will address the global nature of Scotland's supply chain networks. While FTAs, by their very nature, can negatively impact net zero commitments and climate resilience, the negotiation process also offers opportunities to create coherence between trade and climate action
  • we will ensure that Scotland’s domestic and international food security and supply is prioritised within the Scottish Government, including with respect to climate-related shocks. The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform, and Islands has recently created a dedicated Food Security Unit within Scottish Government. It will take forward legacy actions from the Short-Life Food Security and Supply Taskforce and monitor food system resilience to help ensure Government and industry are able to react quickly to shocks as these arise
  • we will expand the Farm Advisory Service to provide improved communication and advice to farmers on climate risks, adaptation actions and funding. This intervention would provide increased, tailored support for a greater number of farmers (either from advisors or peer to peer) to support changing practices towards more climate adaptive actions, specifically under the benefits of productivity and business resilience. This includes working with SEPA for provision of practical advice to farmers, crofters and land managers on how best to prepare and plan ahead for periods of water scarcity. We are also supporting research to improve our understanding of the future scale of water scarcity and the effectiveness of different actions
  • we will support Scottish farmers through our Agriculture Reform Programme. The Vision for Agriculture states that we will transform how we support farming and food production in Scotland to become a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture. It includes the outcome that climate adaptation, sustainable and regenerative agriculture will be more resilient to climate change, through actions to improve soil health, precision farming and minimum till, planting trees/hedges for shade and water management, and regenerative grazing, for example. The Agriculture Reform Programme will deliver that vision through the upcoming Agriculture Bill and continuation of the National Test Programme which includes support for soil testing and nutrient management recognising that healthy soils support the resilience of land to climate impacts
  • we are ensuring that our policy interventions in land and agriculture are informed by the best available research. The Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division’s ‘Strategic Research Programme’ allocates nearly £50 million in funding each year for rural and environmental research. The programme is funded on a five-year rolling basis to ensure that Scotland maintains its position at the very cutting edge of advances in agriculture, natural resources and the environment. For example, approximately £5m per year is allocated specifically for plant health and crop improvement research
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