Scottish climate change adaptation programme 2019-2024: consultation draft

We want to hear your views on Scotland's new five-year climate change adaptation programme to be launched in autumn 2019.


Scotland's climate is warming, the growing season is getting longer, we are facing more extreme weather and rising sea levels. These trends are expected to continue and intensify. Acting on the risks and opportunities of climate change will bring wide-ranging benefits to everyone in Scotland.

We want to build on the significant achievements of the past decade by continuing to strengthen the resilience of our communities, society, economy and environment to the effects of climate change.

A well-adapted society, economy and environment will bring important benefits to our wellbeing and prosperity, helping deliver a greener, fairer and more prosperous Scotland.

Scotland's Changing Climate

No matter how successful global measures under the Paris Climate Agreement are in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it will be necessary to adapt to climate change because many impacts of past emissions are already locked-in and will lead to changes in our climate for decades to come.

The latest Climate Change Projections for the UK (UKCP18), published in November 2018, provide detailed scientific assessment of climate changes to date and expected future trends:

  • Temperatures in Scotland have increased in line with global trends. The average temperature over 2008-2017 was around 1 °C warmer than the pre-industrial period.
  • Scotland's annual rainfall has increased since the 1970s.
  • We can expect milder, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers along with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extremes.
  • Sea level around the UK has risen by around 16 cm since the start of the 20th century.

Adaptation Scotland are currently working with Scottish National Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Historic Environment Scotland and the MET Office to develop a climate projections summary specifically for Scotland based on UKCP18.

Our pre-consultation social media conversations on Twitter and informal stakeholder workshops reported climate change impacts that are already being observed in Scotland, including changing growing seasons, increased coastal erosion, decreasing snow cover, tarmac and roofs melting in extreme heat, and increased ferry disruption due to strong storms.

The cold winter and hot summer of 2018 indicated some of the challenges that could lie ahead for Scotland, but also signalled the clear benefits of being prepared.

Achievements and Progress to Date

Scotland has been responding to the climate challenge for over a decade. In 2009 the Scottish Government published a non-statutory Climate Change Adaptation Framework which had twelve sector action plans.

Scotland's first statutory five-year Climate Change Adaptation Programme, Climate Ready Scotland, was published in May 2014. The programme was designed to address over 130 climate impacts through over 150 individual policies.

It is a requirement of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 that Scottish Ministers report annually on progress on the current Adaptation Programme; the Fourth Annual Report was published in May 2018.

Adaptation has been increasingly integrated into the Scottish Government's and public bodies' regular business. Adaptation is increasingly included within the core work of the wider public sector, and incorporated into national strategies and guidance. Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Marine Scotland have long track records of working on climate change.

This has been accompanied by significant investment, including £42 million invested annually by the Scottish Government and local authorities on flood risk management, one of Scotland's biggest climate risks.

Independent Assessment of Scotland's Adaptation Programme

Under the 2009 Act, Scottish Ministers must commission independent assessments of their Adaptation Programme. An in-depth assessment of how well Scotland is preparing for climate change was commissioned by Scottish Ministers in the first Independent Assessment of the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme by the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the UK Committee on Climate Change, which was laid before the Scottish Parliament in September 2016.

Independent Assessment 2016

The opening messages from the first Independent Assessment of the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme by the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change in 2016 highlights the risks and opportunities facing Scotland:

"Scotland's unique geography creates both resilience and vulnerabilities to the impacts of extreme weather and climate change. Scotland's iconic industries including timber and whisky, and its fisheries, rely on the abundance of climate-sensitive natural resources. The projected changes in weather patterns combined with sea level rise will test the nation's transport, communication, fuel and energy networks and challenge the delivery of health and social care services. There will also be opportunities for Scottish businesses investing in the products, services and new technologies that will be needed to adapt urban areas and grow rural economies in Scotland.

"The Paris Agreement should mark the turning point in the global action needed to limit further warming. Otherwise temperature increases of 4°C or more by the end of the century would remain possible. Even two degrees of warming is associated with severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and the natural environment."

The Adaptation Sub-Committee assessed 28 adaptation priorities and made 30 recommendations. Initial progress against these recommendations was set out in the Scottish Government's third annual report to Parliament.

The Assessment found that the Programme had made a positive start. Many policies and plans already take account of climate change; commitments within the Programme are being fulfilled, and it provides a solid foundation for further progress. The Assessment noted some evidence gaps in important areas that make it difficult to determine whether key vulnerabilities are being suitably addressed and more action is required to address risks highlighted. Likewise, more should be done to take advantage of opportunities that milder winters and warmer summers will bring to Scotland.

A second Independent Assessment by the Adaptation Sub-Committee was carried out in 2018 and is expected to report in March 2019. Its findings will inform the development of the second Adaptation Programme.

In 2016, the Adaptation Sub-Committee recommended that, in preparing the second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, the Scottish Government should:

  • address all urgent risks and opportunities for Scotland;
  • identify a senior owner for each objective to be held accountable for its delivery;
  • list the specific actions that will be taken to achieve each objective together with appropriate milestones and timescales;
  • introduce an effective monitoring regime to allow impact of actions and delivery of each objective to be properly assessed;
  • present the actions being taken within each sector together and coordinate their delivery; and
  • work with partners and build on the suite of ClimateXChange indicators to develop datasets for those areas where progress is most important and develop outcome-based indicators where this is possible.

The Adaptation Sub-Committee recommends an ambitious, focussed Programme of cost-effective actions and research, addressing all Scotland's priority risks, moving beyond awareness-raising and capacity-building to concrete actions that measurably reduce our climate risks; and with clear ownership, timescales, co-ordination across themes, and mechanisms to track progress.

New Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019

The second statutory five-year Adaptation Programme will be published in 2019. Under the 2009 Act, the Programme must set out progress on the previous Programme, Scottish Ministers' objectives on adaptation, proposals and policies and their timescales, and arrangements for wider engagement.

The new Programme will address the risks for Scotland set out in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 and its Evidence Report Summary for Scotland which identified six priority risk areas where action is needed in the next five years. More detail is at Annex A.

Proposed Approach

We propose an outcomes-based approach, derived from both the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Scotland's National Performance Framework. In going beyond the sector and risk based approaches of our 2009 Framework and 2014 Programme we are proposing a more strategic framework for the new Programme. It will promote co-benefits and integrate adaptation into wider Scottish Government policy development and service delivery. The approach is inherently cross-cutting, engaging sectors which have not yet fully considered climate change adaptation.

What is an "Outcomes Based Approach"?

An outcomes based approach means focusing on what we want the policy to achieve rather than inputs and outputs. It is positive and forward-looking, thinking about what type of Scotland we want in future. It encourages Government to work across traditional boundaries and increases transparency and accountability.

In line with the Paris Agreement and EU Adaptation Strategy, we want to deliver a step change in collaboration and propose establishing a National Forum on Adaptation, similar to Ireland's National Adaptation Steering Committee. The Forum will include senior representatives of key sectors and will improve both leadership and collaboration.

Ireland's National Adaptation Steering Committee

Ireland has had a National Adaptation Steering Committee since 2015. The role of the Steering Committee is to provide advice and guidance to the relevant sectors in respect of the development of sectoral adaptation plans. In its 2018 consultation document, Ireland proposes that Government Departments will be required to consult with other sectors through the Steering Committee process as they develop sectoral plans. This will embed cooperation on cross-cutting issues and facilitate the use of consistent and common information on matters such as climate risks, climate change data and analysis in policy development.

We will embed monitoring and evaluation across the Programme, bringing a focus on results, performance and measurement. The new Programme will, for the first time, explore adaptation behaviour change - how we can help people and businesses to make the most important choices in respect of our changing climate.

This approach will place Scotland at the cutting-edge of adaptation practice internationally.

Climate Change Adaptation Behaviour Change

Adapting to the impacts of climate change needs action at all levels of society. That is why we are introducing the concept of climate change adaptation behaviours for the first time. This is where individuals and organisations change their behaviour to help increase their resilience to, and reduce the severity of, negative consequences of climate change. Adaptation behaviour also includes taking advantage of new opportunities or developing new products and services to respond to changing climate. Adaptation behaviours range in scale and scope: from investing in flood protection for a home or business, to changing ploughing practices on farms to reduce soil erosion.

To make informed decisions on how to adapt to climate change, individuals, communities and businesses need a greater understanding of climate change and its impacts. This is sometimes referred to as climate literacy. Adaptation behaviours for individuals and organisations will form part of each outcome for the programme. These will be included alongside policies to serve as building blocks to achieve our vision of Scotland able to adapt to the changing climate.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Establishing a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework for the Adaptation Programme is vital to ensure the effectiveness of Scotland's efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change, identify whether resilience is increasing and opportunities are being realised, and ensure that reporting on progress and implementation is evidence-based.

The first Adaptation Programme was accompanied by significant developments in adaptation monitoring in Scotland and evaluation of the first Programme was able to draw on:

  • Annual Public Sector Climate Change Reporting
  • Adaptation Indicators published in 2016 by ClimateXChange (Scotland's centre of expertise on climate change).

The monitoring and evaluation framework for the second Adaptation Programme builds on this monitoring foundation and has been developed in response to specific recommendations from both the Adaptation Sub-Committee (of the UK Climate Change Committee) and ClimateXChange to ensure that we can effectively monitor implementation of the Adaptation Programme and track progress towards the outcomes. Our new approach acknowledges that M&E is integral to an outcomes-focussed Programme and encourages consideration of M&E at all stages of adaptation policy development.

Further details of the principles and practice used in developing the monitoring and evaluation framework are given in Annex B.

Consultation Questions: Proposed Overall Approach

Q1. Do you agree with our outcome-based approach to adaptation in Scotland?

Q2. Do you agree that a National Forum on Adaptation should be established to facilitate discussion on climate change adaptation?

Q3. Do you agree that climate change adaptation behaviours should be included in the Programme?

Q4. Do you agree that an integrated approach should be taken to monitoring and evaluation?

Programme Vision

Our overarching vision is that we live in a Scotland where our built and natural places, supporting infrastructure, economy and society are climate ready, adaptable and resilient to climate change.

Programme Outcomes

We have developed a set of seven high level "outcomes" for the Programme, derived from the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework.

A framework for each high level outcome which includes sub-outcomes, policies and proposals, performance indicators and climate change risks is being developed.

Adaptation Programme Outcomes

  • Our communities are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe in response to the changing climate
  • The people in Scotland who are most vulnerable to climate change are able to adapt and climate justice is embedded in climate change adaptation policy
  • Our inclusive and sustainable economy is flexible, adaptable and responsive to the changing climate
  • Our society’s supporting systems are resilient to climate change
  • Our natural environment is valued, enjoyed, protected and enhanced and has increased resilience to climate change
  • Our coastal and marine environment is valued, enjoyed, protected and enhanced and has increased resilience to climate change
  • Our international networks are adaptable to climate change


Outcome: An overarching aim which describes what the Programme is working to achieve at the highest level.

Sub-outcome: The building blocks of an outcome, which combined ensure that we fulfil our overarching aims.

Performance indicator: A metric which enables us to track progress towards the achievement of the outcomes or to monitor how well the Programme is being implemented.

Climate Change Risks: The consequences for Scotland that may occur from the impacts of climate change.

Policy: A course of action that is actively in place

Proposal: A forthcoming set of actions that is under consideration

Diagram A: The Adaptation Programme's relationship to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Scotland's National Performance Framework.

Diagram A – A series of circle diagrams showing the links between the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme and Scotland’s National Performance Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals

Diagram B: The Adaptation Programme Vision and Outcomes

Diagram B – A close up of the inner circle of Diagram A showing more clearly the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation outcomes and vision

Consultation Questions: Proposed Vision and Outcomes

Q5. Do you agree with our long term vision for adapting to climate change in Scotland?

Q6. Does the Programme identify the right outcomes for Scotland over the next five years?



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