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).


In this guidance:

Climate Change MITIGATION: means reducing Scottish greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Change ADAPTATION: means preparing Scotland for the future climate and building resilience to impacts that are already occurring.

Full definitions are available at

2.1 The effects of climate change are already being witnessed and are predicted to steadily increase in the future. The consensus of scientific opinion indicates that climate change is being driven by emissions resulting from human activities. Therefore the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit dangerous climate change (climate change mitigation) is apparent. In addition, there is also a need to build resilience into Scottish PPS, to address the impacts of climate change that are now inevitable due to past and present emissions (climate change adaptation).

2.2 The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UK Climate Change Act 2008 and the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 include emissions reduction targets covering carbon dioxide and five other key greenhouse gases, these are: methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorcarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. The five latter emissions are produced in smaller quantities but are more powerful in their greenhouse effect per unit volume than carbon dioxide - this is known as Global Warming Potential ( GWP).

2.3 One tonne of methane, which has a GWP of 25 can be represented by 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Human activities can increase the concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere. Figure 1 outlines the six greenhouse gases and their main sources from human activity.

Greenhouse Gas

Sources from human activity

Carbon dioxide (CO 2)

burning fossil fuels, burning biomass, land use changes, some industrial processes, transport

Methane (CH 4)

landfill sites, livestock

Nitrous oxide (N 2O)

fertiliser, some industrial processes

Hydrofluorocarbons ( HFCs)

refrigeration and air conditioning equipment (manufacture and end of life)

Perfluorocarbons ( PFCs)

refrigeration sector, aluminium production, fire extinguishing systems

Sulphur hexafluoride ( SF 6)

electrical substations, magnesium smelters, production of consumer goods such as tennis balls and training shoes

Figure 1 - Greenhouse Gas types and their main sources

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