Chapter 8 Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) portfolio is responsible for protecting and enhancing Scotland's environment, leading action to tackle the global climate change emergency, driving forward land reform and investing in policy-relevant research.
A significant part of this portfolio's budget goes towards funding public bodies and other organisations that invest in our natural resources, manage our land and seas, or deliver other priority work. There are approximately 3,500 people directly employed in these organisations.
The pressing demands for this portfolio are reducing emissions and developing a low carbon economy; protecting nature and improving the quality of our air, land, seas and fresh water; improving the way that land and sea is owned, used and managed; managing the marine environment; investing in Scottish Water; reducing waste and tackling flood risk.
Key Inequalities of Outcome
This portfolio faces a number of equalities challenges. We know that the effects of environmental and climate change do not affect people equally, and certain groups are more vulnerable than others. The ability of some people to adapt to climate change impacts is also variable with those from lower income groups or living in more deprived areas often facing the greatest challenge in being able to adapt, for instance to the increased flood risk likely to be a key impact of climate change in Scotland. Overall, the groups who are most likely to be directly or indirectly affected by spend in this portfolio include older people, disabled people, those with existing health problems, rural, island or coastal communities, younger people and future generations, those on lower incomes, and people living in deprived areas including those in fuel poor households.
Certain groups are more vulnerable to the impact of poor air quality than others such as those with existing health conditions. Those from lower socio-economic groups and older people may be more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases that can be aggravated by poor air quality. Socio-economic disadvantage can limit options for households to move away from polluted areas.
The consequences of extreme weather events such as flooding can disproportionately impact certain groups and exacerbate inequality. Older people, those in remote and coastal areas, dispersed rural communities and deprived urban areas are disproportionately affected by flooding. This is because those on lower incomes are more likely to live in poorly insulated and adapted housing and may lack funds to make improvements. They are also more likely to be renting accommodation without the scope to alter their own dwelling. Those with reduced mobility may also be more negatively affected by flooding as they are more likely to live on the ground floor. Some of these groups also tend to have lower insurance availability. This can prolong the negative impacts of flood risk or extend the recovery period after a flooding event. Flooding can also exacerbate ill health through bacterial or fungal growth in dwellings affected by flooding.
We are also seeing an increased impact on mental health, especially as younger people grow increasingly anxious about the global climate emergency. Evidence shows that green spaces can help people live active lives and have a positive impact on mental health, yet certain groups are less likely to visit the outdoors. For example we know that adults living in the most deprived areas are less likely to visit the outdoors than other people, and they are also less likely to live within a 5 minute walk of green space.
It is worth noting that certain industries such as sea fisheries and aquaculture are known to employ more men than women. Traditionally, women have tended to play supporting roles in the fishing industry as partners/spouses of fishermen and their economic contribution may not be directly accounted for. The implications of this should be taken into account when investing in these industries.
Key Strategic Budget Priorities
This portfolio supports climate change policy development and delivery, and provides funding for local communities to take action on climate change. It also protects and enhances Scotland's natural environment and resources, to achieve a cleaner, greener Scotland, improving drinking water and air quality, addressing flood risk and bringing benefits to wildlife, ecosystems and biodiversity.
Two of the Scottish Government's key strategic priorities are to respond to the twin challenges of the global climate emergency and biodiversity loss. Tackling these challenges requires different portfolios across government to work together.
The transition to a low carbon society is a key part of tackling the global climate emergency and an essential investment for the welfare of all our people, and we are progressing ambitious programmes on the circular economy including a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and other waste reduction measures. Marine Scotland is also focusing on a number of key priorities that support the transition to a low carbon economy and tackling climate change.
Taking targeted action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will directly impact positively on the health and wellbeing of all our communities and help to mitigate certain climate change consequences for more vulnerable groups.
It is important that this portfolio's outcomes are delivered in a way that benefits all of Scotland's communities and does not have a direct or indirect negative impact on any particular group or community including those with protected equalities characteristics or facing socio-economic disadvantage. Steps should be taken to ensure that opportunities afforded through our investments are equally available to everyone. The Just Transition Commission was set up to advise Ministers on a fair transition to a climate neutral Scotland with the aim of ensuring this.
Equality Implications of The Scottish Budget 2020-21
The overall picture is one of relatively little change from 2019-20, with an overall small increase in the portfolio's budget, and some adjustments within the portfolio.
Spending on climate change policy development and implementation will remain unchanged at £1.1 million. The budget supports this portfolio's climate change co-ordination work, which is needed to take forward our responsibilities under Scotland's climate change legislation. Our ambition is to transition to net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases in Scotland for the benefit of our environment, our people and our prosperity and the work to do so will present an opportunity to shape a fairer and more equal society. We will update our Climate Change Plan to show how we will meet the more ambitious targets in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019.
In general, action to reduce emissions is most likely to have a beneficial impact on those who are most affected by climate change: those living in rural or island communities; lower income or deprived communities and fuel-poor households. Interventions to reduce climate change are of particular importance to children and younger people who are the next generation. Climate change interventions are co-ordinated by many other policy directorates across the Scottish Government and it will be important that equalities and fairer Scotland impact assessments are undertaken for individual climate emission reduction policies wherever they are being delivered.
We are continuing our work to ensure that Scotland is climate-ready with our second Climate Change Adaptation Programme. This sets out a five year strategy to prepare Scotland for the challenges that we will face as our climate continues to change in the decades ahead. It sets out more than 170 policies and proposals to protect communities, infrastructure and the natural environment from the threats posed by extreme weather, flooding and coastal erosion. These will benefit all those who are vulnerable to flooding and extreme weather events. We know that climate change is expected to exacerbate current vulnerabilities and inequalities, and adaptation measures will be of greater importance for disadvantaged groups, such as those from lower income groups, those living in deprived areas or those in remote and coastal areas.
We are also working with the Scottish Flood Forum and stakeholders to deliver the Living with Flooding action plan which promotes property flood resilience. Making homes more resilient to flooding will be of benefit to those groups that are most often affected by it.
Through the work we have done in the first Climate Change Adaptation Programme we now have better understanding of which people are at risk of flooding but there are still evidence gaps. For example, there is more to do to understand the vulnerability of housing and infrastructure and the uptake of sustainable drainage. Older people are more vulnerable to climate-related health risks such as extremely hot and cold weather and they are more vulnerable to the health consequences of overheating in buildings. The adaptation of health and social care services to account for these vulnerabilities is therefore an important priority for the second Climate Change Adaptation Programme.
The Sustainable Action Fund will increase by £9.1 million to £28.7 million. The increase is to fund additional commitments on climate change such as the UN Climate Summit, COP 26 (discussed below), as well as ongoing commitments to the Climate Justice Fund and Climate Challenge Fund.
The Climate Justice Fund supports projects in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda to address water quality and scarcity, and increase communities' resilience to the impacts of climate change. This work has a positive impact on inequalities on a global scale as the poorest and most vulnerable people, including women and children are often most affected by climate change.
The Climate Challenge Fund supports communities in Scotland to take action on climate change. This includes the creation of Climate Action Hubs. The Climate Challenge Fund has the potential to be of particular benefit to those on low incomes and other equalities groups by providing free energy advice and support to help people out of fuel poverty, providing access to free, locally grown food including cooking classes, and access to free or subsidised bikes and cycle training to improve health and provide free or low-cost transport. It is expected that this could particularly benefit women, including older women, and others suffering social isolation, by providing people with opportunities for socialising and gaining new skills. Younger people also have the opportunity to benefit as they will have access to volunteering and training opportunities through the Youth Leaders' Training programme. Information will be provided in different languages to ensure equal access for those whose first language is not English, and in a range of formats to widen accessibility, and the programmes will take account of the different cultural circumstances to ensure an inclusive approach.
The UN Climate Summit COP 26 is to be hosted in Glasgow in 2020 and will provide an opportunity for Scotland to be recognised on an international stage as an open and welcoming nation and as a leader on climate change and social justice. COP 26 will be inclusive of the interests of those from different equalities groups and lower income groups bringing together a wide range of voices and interests on tackling climate change internationally.
The budget for the Land Managers' Renewables Fund (LMRF) has seen a reduction from £2 million to £0.5 million. A key factor behind this is the closure of UKG subsidies, such as the Feed-in Tariffs Scheme (FITS), which has removed a vital route to market for many of the projects that the LMRF benefits. Delivered through the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), the LMRF supports farmers, land managers and rural businesses to develop renewable energy projects, which can provide wider community benefits. We will closely monitor any negative consequences for groups by equality or socio-economic disadvantage and put in place the necessary mitigation strategies where necessary.
The budget for the Hydro Nation Programme which aims to grow the value of Scotland's water resources is staying the same at £4.7 million. This budget also supports international work via the Climate Justice Fund.
The budget (£1.7 million) for the Private Water Supply Grant remains unchanged. This budget provides improvement grants to 3.6 per cent of Scotland's population who are reliant on a private water supply for their drinking water needs and are typically located in remote or rural areas. As reported by the Drinking Water Quality Regulator in her annual report for 2018, compliance with mandatory standards has not improved since 2010.
This budget covers the costs incurred by the Drinking Water Quality Regulator in regulating public water supplies and ensuring that drinking water provided by Scottish Water to the public meets mandatory standards. This is essential to protect public health and benefits the public at large regardless of where they live.
The budget also supports a £3.9 billion Scottish Water investment programme for the 2015-21 period and ensures that Scottish Water can deliver high quality drinking water to all of its customers and treat waste water and return it safely to the environment through continued investment in water, sewerage and drainage infrastructure. This plays an important part in enhancing our environment, is a key enabler of economic growth and supports the health of the nation.
Scottish Water ensures that all customers ,including protected groups, can access services and communicate with them, have facilities in place to assist protected groups as required such as BSL services, and have taken a wide range of steps to equalise opportunities and maximise diversity in the workplace.
As well as assistance to charitable organisations, full-time students are exempt from water and sewerage charges. A Scottish Government scheme helps to reduce costs for small charities and Community Amateur Sports Clubs by exempting them from having to pay for sewerage and water services. A tariff harmonisation policy ensures that all customers pay the same tariff regardless of where in Scotland they live.
The Scottish Government is consulting on the investment priorities and principles of charging for the water industry's next regulatory period 2021-27. One of the proposals is to improve support through the water charges reduction scheme for those customers who may have difficulty with affordability. This would provide additional support to nearly half a million households. Together with other processes under the Strategic Review, including the work of the Customer Forum and outputs from Scottish Water's own research and engagement, responses will help ensure that the widest range of customers' views are available to inform the Scottish Ministers' decisions on the final documents expected to be published in June 2020.
There will be a slight increase in the budget for the National Park Authorities to £13.9 million in 2020-21. This includes Scotland's two National parks, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, and the Cairngorms, which play an important role in rural economic development, recreation, sustainability and the conservation of natural habitats. It is known that older people, disabled adults and people from minority ethnic groups are less likely to visit the outdoors and face multiple barriers to do so. Both parks recognise this challenge and are committed to working with partners to reduce these barriers by creating 'Parks for All'.
Spending on Environmental Quality will decrease by £0.7 million to £10.8 million. This budget covers actions to tackle air and noise pollution, and improvements to the water environment. These have benefits for health and wellbeing at population level, but also for certain groups in society:
Actions to tackle air quality and noise disturbance will benefit those who suffer most from the ill effects on their health and wellbeing. This includes children, older people, those with pre-existing health problems or disabilities linked to air pollution and people living in dense, urban areas close to busy roads which can include those from lower socioeconomic groups. For example, there are 40 actions in the Cleaner Air for Scotland Strategy 2015 which include improved modelling techniques to inform the reduction of transport emissions. An independent review of the strategy was undertaken in 2019 to assess progress to date in implementation and to identify priorities for additional action. A new air quality strategy will be developed during 2020 taking into account the review's conclusions and recommendations.
Funding for water environment restoration projects (funded by the Water Environment Fund) will make a difference for communities by restoring urban rivers and creating good quality, accessible green space (which brings health and wellbeing benefits) and in many cases reducing flood risk.
There is an increase in spending to £29.7 million in the Natural Resources, Peatland and Flooding budget, which is due to a £20 million investment in Peatlands restoration, a transfer of functions and increased funding for biodiversity. This budget also incorporates funding for three other things: Special Protection Area restoration at opencast coal mine in East Ayrshire; core funding for the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) Trust; and a range of other activities to protect and improve the quality of services provided by the natural environment (such as expenditure on various natural heritage projects, reviews, consultations and funding commitments). The CSGN budget is being protected as it aims to improve the quality of publicly-owned greenspaces for recreation and community use, and will help tackle inequalities by targeting improvements in the most disadvantaged areas. Around 87 per cent of Scotland's most deprived areas are located within the CSGN boundary. This equates to around 700,000 residents or 19 per cent of the CSGN area's total population. The CSGN prioritises work with these communities to improve local environments and help tackle long-standing issues such as health inequalities.
Spending on Land Reform has decreased slightly to £16.5 million in 2020-21. This budget finances the Scottish Land Fund which supports communities to become more resilient and sustainable through the ownership and management of land; the work of the Scottish Land Commission; and ongoing implementation of the provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. In the coming year, we will introduce a new community right to buy for sustainable development by summer 2020, and regulations will be passed establishing a new Register of Persons Holding a Controlling Interest in Land which will be developed and introduced in 2021, increasing transparency around who owns Scotland's land. For both of these reforms, we have followed robust equalities impact assessment processes with EQIAs published alongside regulations, ensuring that those from protected groups are equally able to access these opportunities, and that our approach to communication and community engagement meets differing accessibility requirements.
The Zero Waste budget has reduced from £20.5 million in 2019-20 to £16.5 million in 2020-21. This is as a result of a technical adjustment arising from a loan repayment of £4 million. The underlying funds remain at 2019-20 levels. This budget primarily funds the activities of Zero Waste Scotland, which include delivery of our circular economy strategy in Scotland and measures to reduce waste.
Relevant priorities include implementation of a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for single-use drinks containers, the continuing work of the Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM) and the introduction of a Circular Economy Bill to drive further action in improving waste reduction, reuse and recycling.
The DRS equality impact assessment highlighted key issues relating to mobility, accessibility of return points and inclusive communication and these have been taken into account in the design of the scheme. EPECOM will continue its work on providing recommendations on how to tackle the throw away culture. During 2019-20 they provided a set of recommendations on single use beverage cups highlighting in particular the need to consider equality issues.
A partial EQIA on proposed legislation for the Circular Economy Bill was included as part of the 2019 consultation. It identified a range of potential impacts as a result of the enabling powers proposed. These include, for example, measures to reduce littering having a positive impact on people's sense of neighbourhood, as well as the need to take into account the implications for protected characteristics (such as age and disability) if approaches to household recycling collection are strengthened. Comments received during the consultation will be used to inform a full EQIA and to determine if any further work in this area is needed.
There will be a marginal increase in the Marine Scotland budget to £65.5 million in 2020-21. This budget supports the sustainable use of Scotland's coasts, seas and freshwater fish populations. Scotland's marine environment offers opportunities for wellbeing for everyone in Scotland offering recreation and tourism opportunities.
Marine Scotland is focusing on a number of key priorities that support the transition to a low carbon economy and tackling climate change. These include commitments to supporting offshore wind generation and the development of a new Sectoral Marine Plan for offshore wind, safeguarding marine biodiversity, species and habitats through introduction of Marine Protected Areas, creating a national deep-sea marine reserve and addressing the decline in seabird populations and working to reduce fishing litter and loss of fishing gear. How these policies impact local communities are assessed through environmental and social and economic impact assessments which are conducted before new plans and policies are put in place. These are increasingly recognised as being of key importance in helping to minimise negative consequences for local communities and maximising opportunities for everyone.
The partial EQIA for the Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind notes that the plan itself is not expected to impact negatively on individuals with protected characteristics, and could offer opportunities to reduce inequalities across Scotland supporting the provision of fair work and quality jobs.
In delivering these plans and policies the Scottish Government will ensure that community engagement and consultation approaches are accessible to everyone including those from protected groups who may require specific support of facilities to enable their involvement.
Marine Scotland's vision for the aquaculture sector is to ensure equal access to employment opportunities in line with the Scottish Government commitment to inclusive economic growth. Marine Scotland launched the Women in Scottish Aquaculture initiative in 2019 to encourage more women into aquaculture with a career support and mentoring programme, and to support those already working in this sector through career progression, and development opportunities.
For the other bodies funded by the portfolio, in 2020-21 the budget for Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) increases to £14.5 million, Scottish Natural Heritage increases to £49 million while the Scottish Environment Protection Agency's budget increases to £37 million. Like all public bodies, these organisations will continue to deliver their statutory equality and Fairer Scotland duties and are required to assess equalities impacts where there are significant changes to policy interventions, service delivery or staffing. For example, we would expect Scottish Natural Heritage and RBGE to consider the equality impacts of spending decisions on accessibility and use of the outdoors and national collections.
Overall, no negative consequences are expected for those with protected equalities characteristic or facing socio-economic disadvantage for this portfolio, bearing in mind that most of the budget in this portfolio targets climate change, land and environmental concerns. The additional investment for climate change programmes is expected to ultimately benefit communities across Scotland by bringing improvements to the environment and reducing carbon emissions. We acknowledge that there are different approaches to meeting outcomes but whichever are used, it is paramount that equality and Fairer Scotland concerns are addressed in the way that policies are delivered. The Just Transition Committee, EQIAs and socio-economic impact assessment, and some smaller funding programmes are actively being used to tailor or to encourage other public bodies to tailor programmes to optimise positive impacts. We cannot be certain how public bodies will choose to prioritise resources. We expect them to undertake their own equality impact and Fairer Scotland assessments where appropriate which will help to bring equality impacts to the fore and will aid transparency and accountability.
1. Scottish Water, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the two National Park Authorities, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scottish Land Commission, Crown Estate Scotland and Zero Waste Scotland
2. Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill Joint Equality Impact, Children's Rights and Wellbeing impact assessments and Fairer Scotland assessment – Results; https://www.gov.scot/publications/climate-change-emissions-reduction-targets-scotland-bill-equalities-impact-assessment/; UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017: Evidence Report: Summary for Scotland; Committee on Climate Change https://www.adaptationscotland.org.uk/download_file/view_inline/393
3. Doherty, R.M. Heal, M.R. O'Connor, F.M. Climate change impacts on human health over Europe through its effect on air quality. Environmental Health, Vol 16 (S1):33-44 2017:33
4. Paavola, J. Health impacts of climate change and health and social inequalities in the UK; Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 2017 16:61-76; Benzie, M. Social justice and adaptation in the UK, Ecology and Society 2014 03:19 (1) 492-501; https://www.climatejust.org.uk/messages/people-low-incomes
5. Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Krygsman, K., and Speiser, M. 2017 Mental health and our changing climate: impacts, implications, and guidance; Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica
6. Scottish Household Survey 2018 https://www.gov.scot/publications/scotlands-people-annual-report-results-2018-scottish-household-survey/pages/10/
7. Benzie, M. Social justice and adaptation in the UK, Ecology and Society 2014 03;19 (1):492-501
8. Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme: An independent assessment for the Scottish Parliament; Committee on Climate Change; https://www.adaptationscotland.org.uk/download_file/view_inline/401
10. For example the Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Social and Economic Impact assessment https://www.gov.scot/publications/draft-sectoral-marine-plan-social-econimic-impact-assessment/