First Minister’s Environmental Council minutes: December 2022

Minutes from the meeting held on 5 December 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • First Minister of Scotland, Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon (Agenda 2) – Co-Chair
  • Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport (Agenda items 1-4)
  • Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands (Agenda items 1-4)
  • Richard Lochhead, Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work
  • Lorna Slater, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity (Agenda items 1-4)

Council members

  • Professor Sir Ian Boyd FRSB FRSE FRS (Co-Chair), University of St Andrews, President-elect of the Royal Society of Biology
  • Professor Ian Bateman OBE, Director of Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute, University of Exeter Business School
  • Jocelyn Blériot, Executive Officer of Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  • Gordon Buchanan MBE, award-winning wildlife camera-man and presenter
  • Susan Davies FRSB, Chief Executive, Scottish Seabird Centre
  • Professor Yadvinder Malhi, CBE, FRS, University of Oxford
  • Ece Özdemiroğlu, founding director of eftec (economics for the environment consultancy)
  • Dr Dilys Roe, Chair, IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
  • Peter Haugan, Programme Director at Institute of Marine Research, Professor at Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen (5th December)
  • Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder & Chair of Trustees Ellen MacArthur Foundation (5th December)


  • Revati Campbell, Member of the First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls, RSA Young People’s Economic Security Advisory Group and University of Glasgow
  • Professor Sandra Diaz, National University of Cordoba, Argentina
  • Professor Gretchen Daily - Bing Professor of Environmental Science, Stanford University, USA Faculty Director – The Natural Capital Project
  • Erin Fowler, University of Glasgow
  • Dame Julia Slingo FRS, Chief Scientist of the UK Met Office (2009 -2016)
  • Professor Pete Smith FRS, Professor of Soils & Global Change, University of Aberdeen


  • Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland, Scottish Government
  • Professor Mathew Williams, Chief Scientific Adviser for Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA)
  • Kevin Quinlan, Director Environment and Forestry
  • George Burgess, Director Agriculture and Rural Economy
  • Simon Fuller, Deputy Director, Rural and Environmental Analysis, Scottish Government
  • Dr Sallie Bailey, Deputy CSA Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA), Scottish Government
  • Mia Kett, FMEC Secretariat, Scottish Government
  • Anna O’Connor, FMEC Secretariat, Scottish Government

Policy officials

  • Climate Change team: Philip Raines, Deputy Director for Domestic Climate Change, David Mallon, Head of Unit, Climate Change Division

Items and actions


Professor Boyd opened the meeting and welcomed Council members, Ministers and officials to the fourth meeting of the First Minister’s Environmental Council.  He welcomed new Council member Professor Peter Haugan who is professor of Oceanography at the Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen and programme director at Institute of Marine Research (IMR), Norway.  He presently serves as chair of the Expert Group of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy and is past chair of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.  Professor Boyd reported that Professor Haugan will strengthen Council’s expertise on the marine environment and bring a valuable international perspective. 

Professor Boyd updated Council on activity since the previous meeting he noted that he had met Mr Barry White Co-Chair of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) Delivery Board to discuss areas of mutual interest and possible areas of joint working.  He noted that a sub group of First Minister’s Environmental Council had met with Scottish Government Agricultural Policy colleagues for a briefing on the proposals for future agricultural support and food security. 

Mr Matheson provided opening remarks to the Council, he remarked that the discussion would cover two key areas of his portfolio the Climate Change plan and climate Adaptation.  He acknowledged that the annual emissions statutory targets were rightly very ambitious and it will only be possible to meet them by transformational action across society and the economy.  He noted that Scotland is already experiencing warming and more volatile weather events and therefore we must build resilience in Scotland as part of our just climate transition.

Climate Change Plan 

Professor Boyd welcomed the First Minister to the meeting and introduced the first agenda item on the Climate Plan.

First Minister noted that the discussion today was very timely and welcomed the opportunity to seek the input of Council as we prepare to update the Climate Change Plan.  She noted that Scotland had made progress in moving towards net zero but there was more that we need to do to meet our emissions targets.

First Minister handed to Philip Raines, Deputy Director, Domestic Climate Change who provided Council with an overview of the process for updating the climate change plan (CCP) and the Scottish Government’s priorities and set out some of the key questions that members have been asked to consider:

  • the climate and nature crises are inextricably connected, and it is important that our policy development for the next CCP recognises this.
  • Question: what actions should we take to ensure that the priorities of the CCP also support biodiversity and other environmental outcomes?

  • the Plan must set out how the Government will meet its annual emissions reduction targets for Scotland through the 8 sector envelopes and paragraphs 12 to 18 outline some of the synergies being consider between the CCP and the wider environment. Given the exceptionally stretching targets, producing and delivering a credible plan which meets all annual targets will be highly challenging.
  • Question: are there additional synergies between the CCP sectors focused on the environment (LULUCF, agriculture) and other CCP sectors not covered in this paper and presentation which the Council have identified that could help meet the Government’s overall emissions reductions targets? What levers available to government should be more actively considered now?

Professor Boyd opened the meeting for discussion and the following points were made:

  • alignment between climate change and the environment will be key to meet both our climate and biodiversity obligations
  • it will be critical to use public sector influence to lever in private finance in nature and climate. Members agreed that this was an area where they would like to have a more focused discussion in order to provide advice to Ministers
  • Scotland was making good progress but more information was needed to be readily available to help society and business make informed changes to behaviour. Improved labelling on packaging was highlighted as a potential solution, and it was noted that this could drive/incentivise business to change production and design methods to more sustainable options. It will be important to acknowledge and address the risk of label fatigue with consumers
  • circular economy will be at the heart of achieving climate change goals and restoring nature. We need to make the economy regenerative by eliminating waste and pollution and keeping products in use, considering sustainable product design
  • Government should also monitor outsourcing of production to other countries, as well as the export of waste
  • we need to have a clear vision of a resilient net zero 2045 and what this means for individuals. The Council’s scenarios work should start to lay this out
  • in order to encourage people to make a change in behaviour you need to make it easy – have more recycling options easily available in public spaces for example
  • the potential benefits of place based cost-benefit analysis to support implementation [via case studies] to show that early adaptation is better than ignoring climate risk
  • the need to better understand and analyse the co-benefits vs trade offs for climate and nature for different policy/consumer choices. These are often complex decisions and difficult to communicate to consumers
  • it was noted that government and other groups need to raise the awareness of the urgency and scale of the challenge however we need to take people with us and provide people with choices

First Minister thanked colleagues for an interesting and instructive discussion.  She summarised some of the key points including the behaviour changes needed across government, business and society particularly in relation to the circular economy to achieve scale of transformation required. The importance of finance was highlighted throughout the discussion and that we need to do more to lever in financing from the private sector. The importance of providing sufficient information to allow individuals/society to make informed choices and to incentivise business to change behaviour. She noted that the climate change plan needs detailed coverage across sectors and asked FMEC to challenge and contribute to the development of the plan.

Climate change adaptation

Professor Boyd introduced the second agenda item on climate change adaptation and handed to Philip Raines, Deputy Director, Domestic Climate Change who provided Council with an overview of the impacts of climate change in Scotland, the Scottish Government’s response to this in its Climate Change Adaptation Programme and set out some of the key questions that members have been asked to consider:

  • current advice from the Climate Change Committee on how to plan for adaptation is that the UK must adapt to a minimum average global temperature rise of between 1.5 and 2°C for the period 2050 – 2100 and consider the risks up to a 4ºC warming scenario. Scottish Government intend to use this as a fundamental planning assumption for the next Adaptation Programme (to be published in 2024).
  • question: in light of international emission reduction commitments at COP27, is ‘Plan for 1.5ºC; assess the risks up to 4ºC’ an appropriate basis for climate resilience strategies?
  • while required to publish separate plans, Scottish Government intends to further integrate policy on climate resilience, biodiversity, net zero, health and flood risk management to maximise synergies. For example, restoring Scotland’s peatlands and planning for blue-green urban infrastructure¹ can have co-benefits across these agendas.
  • question: are there examples from other countries where action to integrate climate resilience across policy agendas has yielded wider beneficial outcomes or provided lessons on the role of behaviour change?

Professor Boyd opened the meeting for discussion and the following points were made:

  • Scottish Government should put the majority of its attention on adaptation planning for 1.5ºC – 2.5ºC by the end of this century, but assess risks of up to 4ºC. It was acknowledged that some adaptation is not possible beyond certain thresholds, therefore 4ºC should be used cautiously in relation to adaptation: as a tool for acting with urgency, rather than in planning for the future
  • it would be beneficial to act according to the Committee on Climate Change’s 10 principles of adaptation, which include integrating adaptation into other policies and acting early to avoid lock in . There are large costs to continuing business as usual, and taking late and reactive action
  • using the Green Book's cost benefit analysis to appraise policies within government assumes we can discount the future. However, this doesn’t create the case for acting early on adaptation – economics needs to be viewed differently
  • people need to understand how future impacts of climate change will affect them. It would help to package and present case studies clearly laying out impacts, for example the thresholds of farmers being able to manage drought
  • public understanding of adaptation planning is key. It is important that it isn’t seen as a way out of mitigation, but as something that is needed now to manage the locked in effects of climate change
  • in considering how to communicate messages, it would be helpful to understand what matters to different communities and groups and tailoring messages accordingly. The term ‘wellbeing’ should be key in the public narrative down to local authority and community level engagement
  • in terms of behavioural change, transformations around smoking is a success story – driven by both government policy and technology advances, e.g. vaping technologies, once the messaging on risks was widely accepted. Government could take actions to make behaviour change easier, for example more legislation around combustion vehicles, providing cheap electric vehicle charging energy, and widespread roll out of infrastructure
  • public messaging should be a positive narrative on health, wealth impacts of a stable climate. It should be a national conversation about a national vision, drawing on the kind of world people want to live in and showing it is threatened by changing climate
  • it is important to make decisions informed by the plausibility of climate futures, considering research from disciplines as varied as sociology, macroeconomics and earth system science. The University of Hamburg has carried out an interesting study looking into this 
  • Scottish Government should consider the impact of climate change globally, and how this might affect Scotland in terms of trade corridors. It is important to consider the resilience of our food system to future climate shocks
  • consideration is needed on the role of nature as an adaptation solution, and invest more in it. More analysis is needed in nature based solutions, including comparative analysis around interventions. FCDO’s ‘best buys’ for nature is a good example of this 
  • individuals, particularly those with high incomes, should pay for the cost of high environmental footprints. This should not be done in isolation but with groups of countries together – international leadership is required

Philip Raines and Professor Boyd summarised the conversation, highlighting the need to communicate the need for adaptation to climate change, even to locked-in effects, and to invest in natural capital and nature based interventions.

Professor Boyd thanked members and Ministers for their interventions and closed the day.

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