Consideration of climatic factors within Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

Guidance on the consideration of climatic factors within Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), developed by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).


1.1 Climate change is expected to have profound effects on Scotland and action is required at all levels of the public sector in order to meet the challenges these effects will bring.

1.2 The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 (2009 Act) introduces a statutory framework of year-on-year reductions for Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions, with an interim target of at least 42% reduction by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels) and at least 80% by 2050. Under the 2009 Act, Scottish Ministers are required to produce guidance for the public bodies in relation to the above climate change duties. The 2009 Act includes provisions on duties of public bodies 1 relating to climate change. A public body must, in exercising its functions, act:

  • in the best way calculated to contribute to the delivery of the emission reduction targets,
  • in the best way calculated to help deliver any programme for adapting to the impacts of climate change, and
  • in a way that it considers most sustainable.

1.3 Consumption within our society continues to grow, and most aspects of modern life currently give rise to greenhouse gas emissions, such as; electricity and heat generation, construction, manufacturing, operating buildings, information and communications technologies, transport and travel, and food production. However, the shift to a low carbon economy is a major economic opportunity for Scotland. In addition, it is important that infrastructure and services are resilient to the impacts of climate change now and in the future.

1.4 SEA can offer an opportunity to:

  • explore the potential contribution a plan, programme or strategy ( PPS) makes to greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim of avoiding or reducing these emissions where possible;
  • consider whether future Scottish PPS are resilient to the expected effects of climate change;
  • identify measures to address any adverse effects a PPS may have on the climate; and
  • help the public sector to make informed decisions about how to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of PPS and ensure they are resilient to the future climate, thereby supporting the public bodies. Although adherence to this guidance is not a statutory requirement, it aims to help public bodies to fulfil their duties relating to climate change, as set out in the 2009 Act and within the Scottish Climate Change Declaration objectives.

Who is this guidance for?

1.5 This guidance is primarily aimed at SEA practitioners undertaking assessments in Scotland. However, it could also prove useful to plan-makers, ensuring that climate change considerations are embedded into Scottish PPS preparation consistently and uniformly across the public sector. The information provided in this guidance aims to stimulate good practice in the assessment of climatic factors within the SEA.

What can the guidance do for you?

For detailed information on climate change science and the global picture, visit the Met Office website:

1.6 The guide offers advice to Scottish practitioners on how to consider climate change within the terms of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 (2005 Act) when undertaking a SEA. It is important to remember that 'climatic factors' is only one environmental issue within SEA and that it is likely that this topic will have to be considered in relation to the other environmental topic areas.

1.7 The guidance is not a step by step guide to the SEA process. This is provided by The Scottish Government's SEA Tool Kit.

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