5. Strategic Priority 4 – Climate Change
SFRS should continue working with other public sector partners and communities to support action to address the climate emergency including the challenges of more extreme weather events. SFRS should do so by preventing and reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions and working to ensure Scotland’s communities are resilient and safe in response to the changing climate. SFRS’s corporate response to the Climate Emergency should include, for example, commitment towards transitioning over to ultra-low emission fleets, renewable energy and heat; low carbon buildings and materials; and wherever possible, maximising the positive impact procurement can have on addressing the Climate Emergency.
In April 2019, Scotland's First Minister declared a Global Climate Emergency. SFRS must continue to address and prepare for new challenges as Scotland faces more extremes of weather. SFRS must be sufficiently equipped to deal with the effects from wildfires and flooding in particular. Scottish Ministers require SFRS to continue to work in collaboration with partners and communities to ensure collective resources jointly tackle issues caused by the climate emergency, that relate to inequality and to protect those citizens at greatest risk.
SFRS and the Climate Emergency
Scottish Ministers require two things from SFRS in this regard:
1. Provision of an efficient and effective operational service from SFRS to all Scottish communities, with particular regard for the distinct impacts the climate emergency is having and will continue to have on those communities, with the lowest impact upon the environment; and
2. Action regarding what more SFRS can do as an organisation to reduce its emissions, and increase Scotland's climate resilience in our just transition to net zero.
In February 2020, SFRS published its 'Climate Change Response Plan 2045' and this work should continue at pace. A key focus within each SFRS Strategic Plan should continue to be delivering a world class and sustainable Service, enhancing partnership working and responding to the increasing climate emergency.
There is no doubt that the global climate emergency is impacting every aspect of our Scottish communities. SFRS must do its part to mitigate the adverse impact of the climate emergency and help to keep our communities even safer. This can be achieved by structuring responses to climate policies, fostering collaborative and global discussions, reducing direct and indirect emissions, reducing its carbon footprint, incorporating climate action in its business strategies, procuring and constructing zero or low carbon buildings, utilising renewable energies such as including solar, wind, hydro, biofuels and others, prevention of wildfires, and procuring zero emission electric vehicles whenever possible. These green initiatives are at the centre of the transition to a less carbon-intensive and more sustainable SFRS, which supports Scotland's just transition to net zero emissions by 2045.
Wildfires in the UK already cause substantial ecological and environmental damage and demand considerable and costly fire-management resources and different capabilities to address them. SFRS should continue to invest in the provision of specialist resources, technological advancements and forward thinking operational practices to enhance its response to wildfire events. SFRS should continue to make use of local assets available to bolster its response during prolonged or widespread incidents such as wildfire.
The Scottish Ministers require SFRS to continue to place a strong emphasis on partnership working and engaging with various agencies and groups in the rural and land management sectors to capitalise on its existing networks, expertise and influence (such as the Scottish Wildfire Forum, the Dynamic Coast project). This will not only continue to enhance any intervention required, but will provide a strong platform for preventative work.
Flooding is a natural occurrence which can have devastating consequences on individuals, businesses and communities across Scotland. Climate change is predicted to increase Scotland's rainfall resulting in more severe and widespread flooding. Surface water flooding events, as seen in recent summers, can have a devastating impact in only a matter of hours. The Scottish Government is committed to reducing flood risk and working with relevant organisations to deliver actions that protect communities and businesses.
In Scotland an estimated 284,000 homes and premises are at risk of flooding; with an additional 110,000 properties at risk by the 2080s. Flooding can occur from a number of sources including coastal, water courses and surface water.
According to the latest Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk for the UK's third Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3), "The risk of flooding to people, communities and buildings remains the most severe risk for Scotland, and is the costliest hazard to businesses."
SFRS should have regard to the 'Living with Flooding: Action Plan' to help promote property flood resilience in Scotland and should stand ready to respond to any flooding event efficiently providing the right resources at the right time to the right place.
SFRS should continue to strategically place specialist resources in areas where there is a greater risk of flooding (that is flood response stations, swift water rescue units, high volume pumping appliances which divert huge volumes of flood water), and ensure firefighters are prepared, fully equipped and ready to support and protect communities, whatever the weather.
SFRS should also ensure that the construction of any new buildings and new development undertaken by the Service is avoided in areas at risk from flooding. Where development must be located in these areas it, should be designed to be capable of remaining operational and accessible during extreme flood events.
Leading the Response to Climate Change
SFRS should continue to be accountable and respond appropriately using a risk based approach that prioritises already vulnerable communities and individuals. SFRS should ensure that its actions are fair and equitable, taking account of existing social vulnerabilities and maintaining a strong focus on the summary of Climate Projections for Scotland and the UK's third Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3), which was published in June 2021. SFRS must lead by example and act as enablers through its response to the global climate emergency.
SFRS should prioritise and take account of climate change mitigation and adaptation and report ongoing progress against these commitments in its annual reports, demonstrating how the Service is supporting Scotland's response to the global climate emergency.
Since 2011, SFRS has had a legal duty to contribute to the delivery of Scotland's national emissions reduction targets, and the importance of procurement activity in this by public bodies has been enshrined in Scotland's climate law. The Scottish Government is committed to leveraging the £12.6 billion in annual public procurement spend to contribute towards the transition to a more resource efficient, lower zero carbon economy, through world leading climate change legislation. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting Scotland's Green Recovery and a just transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Achieving Scotland's emissions reduction targets will require transformational actions across society, including by SFRS.
SFRS should continue to provide its innovative leadership and support this national endeavour through the strong action that it can take in relation to the £12.6 billion annual public procurement spend. In all its investment decisions, such as buying new fleet, repairing and constructing buildings, SFRS should ensure that it complies with public bodies' sustainable procurement duty obligations to consider and act on opportunities to improve economic, social and environmental wellbeing in the course of its procurement activity, including ensuring a minimum burden on suppliers whilst ensuring robust consideration is given to this matter both with primary suppliers and throughout the supply chain. The net zero transition is at the heart of procurement decisions, with low carbon solutions given full consideration on an equal scale with operational requirement.
To enable traction and make the best use of scarce resources, SFRS should ensure that its teams are working collaboratively across traditional functional and professional boundaries to align climate-related policies, targets, milestones and supporting activities.
SFRS should set out in its Annual Procurement Strategy how it will prioritise and take account of climate change and the circular economy in its procurement activity and, report ongoing progress against these commitments in its annual procurement reports, demonstrating how the Service is using procurement to support Scotland's response to the global climate emergency. This needs to explicitly address climate change and circular economy obligations.
To boost a green recovery and longer term climate ambitions, SFRS should stimulate action in public sector supply chains. Where SFRS decide to buy goods, services or works, it must champion innovative solutions, adopting a sustainable procurement approach to drive additional social and economic value throughout supply chains to reduce inequalities; enable Scottish businesses and the Third Sector to engage in supporting its climate ambitions; and work with the market to stimulate the development of new and emerging circular economy and low emission supply chains and solutions. This focus needs to extend beyond procurement activities and in to the wider policy initiatives that SFRS lead or fund through other means.
As Scotland continues to emerge from Covid-19, SFRS has an opportunity to contribute towards a greener, fairer and more equal society and economy. An evolving and ever improving green recovery, in alignment with both existing and all future Scottish statutory frameworks, taking cognisance of all regulations and innovations being developed both now and in the future, will deliver economic, social and environmental wellbeing and respond to the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.