1. Introduction and context
As a result of the global climate emergency, Scotland is already experiencing warming, with more extreme weather events and rising sea levels. As a nation we must adapt to these changes and prepare for the impacts of global climate change which are already locked in. Action on adaptation and resilience, alongside reducing our emissions to net-zero, is at the heart of Scotland's just transition approach.
How has Scotland's climate changed?
Over the last few decades Scotland has experienced a warming trend, shifting rainfall patterns, and rising sea levels:
- Scotland's 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997.
- There has been an increase in rainfall over Scotland in the past few decades (with an increasing proportion of rainfall coming from heavy rainfall events).
- Mean sea level around the UK has risen by approximately 1.4 mm/year from the start of the 20th century.
How will Scotland's climate change in the future?
The changes in climate that we are already experiencing are projected to continue and intensify:
- Average temperatures will increase across all seasons
- Typical summers will be warmer and drier
- Typical winters will be milder and wetter
- Intense, heavy rainfall events will increase in both winter and summer
- Sea levels will rise
- There will be reduced frost and snowfall
- Weather will remain variable and may become more variable
For further information, see Adaptation Scotland's summary of the UK Climate Projections for Scotland (published January 2021). This resource is intended to help build common understanding on the future climate that Scotland will experience.
This third annual report to the Scottish Parliament provides an assessment of progress under the Scottish Government's current statutory programme for building resilience to the impacts of climate change: Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019-2024.
1.1 Statutory framework for adaptation
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 sets the statutory framework for Scotland to adapt to climate change. The legislation requires a programme of policies and proposals for climate change adaptation to be set out every five years. These programmes must address risks identified in the statutory UK Climate Change Risk Assessments (CCRA), which are also updated every five years, based on independent expert advice around the evidence on current and expected future climate impacts.
This is the third annual progress report on the second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme since its publication in Autumn 2019. This report is published in line with Scottish Ministers duties under section 54 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Copies of previous progress reports can be found on the Scottish Government website.
1.2 Scotland's current adaptation programme (SCCAP2)
The second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP2) sets out over 170 policies and proposals (and an associated research programme) to respond over the period 2019 to 2024 to the risks for Scotland identified in the 2017 UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA2).
SCCAP2 takes an outcomes-based approach, derived from both the UN Sustainable Development Goals and aligned to Scotland's National Performance Framework. This approach is designed to integrate action on adaptation into wider Scottish Government policy and service delivery. There are seven high-level outcomes within SCCAP2, covering Scotland's communities, businesses and natural environment as well as our engagement with international partners. Chapters 4 – 10 of this annual progress report provides examples of progress – since the time of the last report in May 2021 – in implementing policies and proposals that contribute towards each of the SCCAP2 outcomes. Chapter 11 sets out progress to the SCCAP2 research programme.
This progress report relates primarily to the ongoing delivery of the SCCAP2 programme. However, it is also published in the context of the early stages of a new policy cycle of risk assessment and adaptation planning, as summarised below.
1.3 Updated Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3)
In June 2021, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its third Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk, including a Summary for Scotland report. The CCC's assessment found that action to improve resilience across all UK nations is generally failing to keep pace with the increasing risks associated with the impacts of climate change.
The CCC's risk assessment identifies 61 risks and opportunities in total, and is underpinned by a Technical Report. This updated independent evidence base and advice on climate risks has informed an updated formal, statutory UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2022 (CCRA3) laid before the UK Parliament in January 2022. Through the CCRA3, the Scottish Government (as well as the administrations of the other UK nations) have formally accepted the CCC's risk assessment in full.
The publication of the statutory CCRA3 has now triggered the duty on Scottish Ministers under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 to begin the process of developing the next Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, in response to the updated risk assessment. Further information on this process is set out in the "Next Steps" section below. In the meantime, we will continue to deliver the SCCAP2 programme alongside developing new measures to further strengthen the response.
1.4 CCC's first independent assessment of SCCAP2
Following publication of the CCC's updated risk assessment evidence in June 2021, the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport wrote to the CCC to commission further advice on adaptation in Scotland, in particular through a detailed independent assessment of the SCCAP2 programme, and to seek further advice on the role of climate adaptation in economic recovery and a just transition to net zero.
The CCC subsequently published its independent assessment Is Scotland climate ready? – 2022 Report to Scottish Parliament and accompanying advice The just transition and climate change adaptation in March 2022. The CCC's high level conclusion in its independent assessment is that, whilst the vision for a well-adapted Scotland set out in SCCAP2 is welcome, more needs to be done to translate ambition into actions that are commensurate with the scale of the challenge. The Scottish Government has welcomed the CCC's independent assessment and an initial response to its recommendations are included later in the current report.
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires two phases of independent assessment be undertaken within each 5 year planning cycle on adaptation. A second phase of assessment of the SCCAP2 programme will be commissioned from the CCC during 2023.
1.6 The role of the Adaptation Scotland programme
The Adaptation Scotland programme is funded by the Scottish Government to support capacity building and action on adaptation by the public sector, businesses and communities across Scotland. This work includes developing Scotland's pioneering place-based approach to adaptation. The contribution of the programme's activities to delivering the high-level outcomes in SCCAP2 is summarised at the end of each chapter of this report.
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