Climate change adaptation programme: progress report 2022

Third annual progress report on "Climate Ready Scotland: Scotland’s Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019 to 2024".

8. Progress towards "our natural environment being valued, enjoyed, protected and enhanced and having increased resilience to climate change"

SCCAP2 Outcome 5: Our natural environment is valued, enjoyed, protected and enhanced and has increased resilience to climate change.

This outcome has two sub-outcomes. These sub-outcome split across the adaptability of terrestrial natural systems' themselves and the social and cultural benefits that societies obtain from ecosystems. The products and economic value obtained from ecosystems (provisioning services) are considered under outcome 3.

Examples of progress on cross-cutting policies in support of this outcome

Environment Strategy – The Scottish Government's Environment Strategy vision and outcomes, published in 2020, describe our long-term ambitions for restoring Scotland's natural environment and playing our part in tackling the global climate and nature crises. The Environment Strategy's first progress report to Parliament was published in March 2022.

Scottish Biodiversity Strategy - The Statement of Intent on Biodiversity published in 2020, announced our plans for publishing a new biodiversity strategy by autumn 2022. This will set out our approach to delivering Scotland's contribution to the goals of the new Global Biodiversity Framework. We are currently working to develop the strategy, supported by extensive stakeholder engagement, and will shortly invite views through a public consultation. We will publish a delivery plan within six months of the new strategy.

Examples of progress on policies in support of sub-outcome that: "Scotland's biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes are adaptable to the changing climate"

Nature Restoration Fund - In July 2021, the Scottish Government launched the Nature Restoration Fund – our biggest-ever grant scheme targeted at nature restoration. Following an expansion to the Fund announced during COP26, it will provide £65 million over the term of this Parliament. This will enable large-scale, multi-year projects to restore wildlife and habitats on land and sea. The new Fund promotes projects that enhance nature's resilience on land and at sea. In 2021, funding was awarded to 54 projects alongside a direct allocation of £5m from Scottish Government to Local Authorities.

Peatland restoration - In 2020, ambitious plans were announced to invest more than £250 million over ten years to restore at least 250,000 hectares of degraded peatlands by 2030. In 2021-22, NatureScot invested over £8m in peatland restoration, including over £5.5m million of capital expenditure, to put almost 6,000 hectares of degraded peatland on the road to recovery. The multiple benefits – including in terms of resilience to further climate change - were monitored and promoted, and technical advice and capacity building provided, through Peatland Action collaboration with Forestry & Land Scotland, Scottish Water, and the two National Parks.

Expanding the Area of Forests and Woodlands – Despite the impact of Covid-19, Scotland's woodland creation continued at pace over the last year with around 89% of the 12,000 hectares target being achieved by 31st March 2021. Scottish Government has met the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy target for creating 3-5,000 hectares of new native woodland a year for the last 3 years. Over the last 16 years the average proportion of native woodland creation is 52%, although in some periods it has been as high as 82% (in 2012/13). Last year around 40% of new woodland was native. Increasing the biodiversity and health of our native woodland will increase its resilience to the changing climate.

Biodiversity Challenge Fund - In 2021, 13 new projects were awarded funding in the third round of this fund. As part of addressing biodiversity loss and the impact of climate change, these projects included (for example) the restoration of natural river and floodplain processes, and work to reduce climate risk to vulnerable species in both the marine and terrestrial environments. Overall, more than £6 million has now been offered to 50 projects in three rounds of the Fund. Most projects will be fully completed by March 2022 and the remainder, delayed by the Covid 19 impacts, will be completing soon after, at which point the current Fund will cease and be replaced by the Nature Restoration Fund (see above).

Building evidence around Protected Areas - During 2021, NatureScot began developing methods for holistic measurement of ecosystem function. This was identified in 2020 as a crucial step in understanding the effects of climate change on Scotland's nature, and it will represent a major adaptation of protected areas practice in the face of climate change. Work continued to develop the concept of protected areas as key nodes in nature networks.

National Nature Reserves (NNRs) - During 2021 work continued to further enhance NNRs as crucial nodes for the resilience of nature and of its many benefits. For example, peatland restoration continued at Flanders Moss, Blawhorn Moss and Moine Mhor NNRs, and woodland expansion was progressed at Beinn Eighe, Cairnsmore, Craigellachie, and Invereshie & Inshriach NNRs. NatureScot also began to implement the recommendations from an internal review of how its NNRs contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation. Various measures, ranging from installing renewable energy supply to new habitat enhancement work, address these climate change aspects in combination.

Enhancing Environmental Benefits of forestry - Alongside the UK Government and the other devolved administrations, Scottish Forestry has been working with Forest Research to produce a UKFS Practice Guide on designing and managing woodlands and forests to reduce flood risk. This Practice Guide describes how to comply with the UKFS requirement that those planning woodland creation or the management and redesign of existing forests and woodlands in areas prone to flooding, should consider how their activities could reduce flood risk.

Scotland's Rainforests - During COP26 the Scottish Government affirmed its commitment to protect and enhance Scotland's Atlantic Rainforests, including as a nature based solution to the climate emergency. The Scottish Government is engaging with the Alliance for Scotland's Rainforests, comprising a diverse group of organisations and public sector bodies to determine how best to fulfil these commitments. The two main issues which need to be addressed are deer management and invasive species control, primarily rhododendron. We have commissioned Nature Scot and Scottish Forestry to provide an options paper, setting out delivery and funding options.

Adaptability and Resilience of Forests and Woodlands - Alongside the UK Government and the other devolved administrations, Scottish Forestry has been working with Forest Research to produce a UKFS Practice Guide on designing and managing woodlands and forests for adaptation and resilience. This Practice Guide provides forest planners and managers with information on how to better understand and assess the risks associated with climate change in order to plan for the future and adapt forest and woodland management accordingly. The Practice Guide will be published in Spring 2022 alongside a series of case studies looking at a range of forest and woodland types and exploring the different adaptation measures the forest managers have introduced.

Ensuring Sustainable Management of Forests and Woodlands - The four administrations of the UK are undertaking a review of the current UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) which defines the agreed approach to sustainable forest management across the UK. The UKFS includes good forestry practice requirements and specifically addresses soils, water, biodiversity, landscape and natural heritage, people, and climate change. Engaging stakeholders is an important aim of the review and there will be a two-stage stakeholder consultation process. The first consultation which closed in August 2021 was based on a range of cross-cutting themes. The consultation responses and findings are helping inform the drafting of the next edition of a Standard that is balanced and relevant and applicable in Scotland and across the UK. Updated detailed technical content will be shared with stakeholders during the second consultation stage planned for spring 2022. Final publication of the UKFS is due by the end of 2022.

River Basin Management Plans - The River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) set out how Scottish Government, SEPA, other responsible authorities and partners work together to protect and improve the water environment in Scotland. The plans aim to prevent deterioration and improve the quality of the water environment to at least good condition. On behalf of the Scottish Government, SEPA published the RBMPs for 2021 to 2027 in December 2021. The plans are structured around how RBMPs can help deliver Scotland's environment strategy, contributing to a net-zero circular economy. It has a focus on tackling overuse of natural resources, the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis. The plan takes a whole systems approach to dealing with these issues focussed on the themes of: healthier and more resilient communities; water supply and wastewater infrastructure; sustainable and resilient rural land-use; and removing man-made barriers to fish migration.

Wild Salmon Strategy - The Wild Salmon Strategy, published by the Scottish Government in January 2022 includes an action to 'improve climate resilience of rivers, for example through supporting targeted riparian tree planting and natural regeneration and peatland restoration'. Scottish Forestry will be working with Marine Scotland to develop this further over the coming year.

Biological Diversity Monitoring - NatureScot and Scottish Government partners contributed to the UK Government's submissions to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Our published indicators showing the impacts of climate change on biodiversity included a shifting of water birds' wintering grounds from Scotland to continental Europe, and an expansion of range by sun-loving butterfly species into southern Scotland. There was insufficient data to produce meaningful metrics on many other species, due to the Covid pandemic severely limiting field survey work. However, work began to produce new analysis of how nature restoration targeted primarily on carbon sequestration - such as the creation of farm wetlands and woodland - can positively affect Scotland's wildlife.

Pollinator Strategy for Scotland 2017-2027 - There was activity in the past year across all 5 Objectives of the Strategy, notably on the following:

  • An increasing number of community groups improved greenspaces to benefit pollinators. The work of Yorkhill Green Spaces in Glasgow won first prize in the NatureScot/Keep Scotland Beautiful Pollinator Friendly award.
  • To benefit pollinators on Islay, Islay Natural History Trust and Argyll & Bute council implemented a change in road-verge cutting, supported by verge surveys to determine their use by pollinators.
  • Evidence-based monitoring continued through the established UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme, which is financially supported by Scottish Government. 2021 saw the launch of a monitoring App to enable far greater and easier participation in the popular FIT-Counts.
  • Pollinator-friendly management practices have been implemented by an increasing number of local authorities, for example Stirling and Perth. NatureScot hosted a 2021 conference at which local authorities shared good practice and experience in implementing and encouraging pollinator-friendly changes.

Piloting an Outcome Based Approach in Scotland (POBAS) - is an NatureScot-led project working with 40 farmers and crofters in four clusters across Scotland (Skye, Argyll, Strathspey and East Lothian). During 2020-21 this NatureScot-led farm pilot project tested new ways to improve the delivery of biodiversity outcomes (including the adaptation of nature to climate change) on farms and crofts through agri-environment funding.

Examples of progress on policies in support of sub-outcome that "Scotland's natural environment and its contribution to wider societal adaptation is enjoyed, valued and maintained"

Outdoor Learning in Nature - The Learning in Local Greenspace project (2015 - 2021) exceeded its target of 100 green spaces being regularly used for outdoor learning and play, improving the greenspaces where necessary to allow this to happen. It engaged 115 schools from 12 local authorities, providing project resources, advice and staff training on outdoor learning. The project amounted to a long-term investment in community adaptation. Evidence showed that it raised awareness of the physical and mental health benefits of time spent in nature, and increased the capacity of the adults of the future to access those benefits.

Our Natural Health Service Programme - Under the ONHS programme, led by NatureScot, the four Green Health Partnerships continued to help deliver physical, mental and social health outcomes by connecting people and nature, with wide-ranging benefits in community resilience including to climate change. Projects included access to e-bikes for GPs and community groups, and campaigns to encourage walking and cycling in greenspace. 2021 was the third year in which greater use of nature and quality greenspace for health outcomes was co-ordinated by the four pilot partnerships in North & South Lanarkshire, Dundee, North Ayrshire and Highland. The partnerships' contributions to physical and mental health boost the resilience of communities to multiple challenges, including effects of climate change.

Public engagement in Woodland Creation and Forest Management - The Public opinion of forestry survey 2021 found that 86% of respondents had visited forests or woodlands in the last 12 months with around one third (35%) reporting an increase in the number of visits they made in the last 12 months. Around two thirds of respondents (63%) would like to see more woodland in their part of Scotland. NatureScot led research, surveying a representative sample of the Scottish population (Enjoying the Outdoors - Monitoring the impact of Coronovirus and social distancing - Wave 3 survey results (September 2021)), reported that 37% of respondents reported taking more visits to the outdoors than pre-pandemic and when asked to reflect on the period since the pandemic began, almost 3 in 5 (58%) agreed that nature had become more important to their health and wellbeing.

Walking and Cycling Networks – Helping our natural environment adapt can support our health and wellbeing and enjoyment of the outdoors. Transport Scotland continued to fund development of the National Cycle Network (NCN) in 2021-22 to further develop routes on the 30 year Strategic Network Plan for Scotland including pipeline delivery projects. £23.9 million per annum capital funding goes direct to local authorities through the Cycling Walking and Safer Routes (CWSR) grant. Over £62 million of this year's active travel budget is being invested through the Sustrans Places for Everyone programme to enable local authorities and others to deliver active travel infrastructure projects. We fund national enabling bodies such as Sustrans who have the expertise and staff to appraise and work with local authorities and other community partners to deliver local projects. Channelling funding through a national partner ensures that there is a national quality standard for active travel infrastructure.

How the Adaptation Scotland Programme is supporting this outcome:

Adaptation Scotland works closely with Nature Scot to support and champion the importance of nature-based solutions to tacking climate change. The programme is collaborating with Nature Scot to develop place-based adaptation work in the Outer Hebrides and the Highlands. A Nature Scot led project was the focus of an adaptation finance case study for the Outer Hebrides.



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