2. The Strategic Environmental Assessment Process and Findings
2.1. The Strategic Environmental Assessment Process
2.1.1 The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 (the '2005 Act') requires public bodies in Scotland to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on their plans, programmes and strategies. SEA is a way of examining plans, programmes and strategies as they develop, to identify any significant effects they may have on the environment. It also ensures that environmental considerations are taken into account and aims to build in mitigation measures to avoid or minimise any potentially significant adverse effects on the environment and to enhance positive ones.
2.1.2 The SEA process for the Bill began with a Scoping Report which was issued to the three SEA statutory consultation authorities for views in April 2017. The Scoping Report set out the likelihood of significant environmental effects on a number of environmental receptors. All three consultation authorities (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES)) commented on the scope of the SEA and their views were taken into account in conducting the assessment.
2.1.3 At scoping stage, it was considered likely that the proposals to change the levels of emissions targets would yield significant beneficial environmental impacts, particularly in the context of climatic factors. It was also identified that through the implementation of the wide range of proposals, lower level policies, programmes, and strategies that seek to mitigate or adapt to climate change, there could be potential for indirect or secondary effects across the environmental topic areas. As a consequence, all the SEA environmental topic areas were scoped into the assessment.
2.1.4 A two-stage assessment process was undertaken. The first stage involved the review of findings from previous SEA Environmental Reports, relevant to the proposals for a new Bill. This drew together key findings and provided an overview of known environmental effects. The second stage of the assessment drew heavily on the stage 1 findings to provide a broad, overarching view of potential environmental effects as a result of the Bill. Assessment findings were reported in narrative form and focused on the potential for environmental effects, resulting from actions taken to meet revised emissions reduction targets. In addition, the assessment looked at the potential for cumulative and in-combination effects.
2.2. Findings and recommendations of the assessment
2.2.1 The assessment found that the introduction of a new Climate Change Bill to raise the ambition of Scotland's targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions will enhance Scotland's efforts at tackling climate change, with likely benefits to climatic factors. In addition, positive secondary effects are expected for air quality, population and human health, and material assets, due in large part to the further decarbonisation of energy generation and transport. These benefits could be increased by making sure climate change action is brought in line with overarching Scottish Government objectives. The assessment also identified the likelihood of indirect or secondary impacts, both positive and negative, as a consequence of actions undertaken to meet the new emissions reduction targets, rather than as a result of the setting of any new targets.
2.2.2 In view of the UK Committee on Climate Change advice in 2017 that evidence was not yet available to set a target for net-zero emissions at the time of consultation, the Strategic Environmental Assessment supported the proposal to allow for such a target to be set at a later date, once the evidence becomes available. The assessment concluded that achieving further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will increase Scotland's resilience to future climatic change. This could also facilitate adaptation, particularly through changes in the area of land use management and in the storage of carbon within the terrestrial and marine environments.
2.2.3 The necessary infrastructure will need to be in place if Scotland is to meet more ambitious targets. Such infrastructure will also be a primary source of any negative secondary effects that may arise and the SEA Environmental Report recommended that existing infrastructure is reused wherever possible and that existing, project-level mitigation measures are implemented and enforced. It was further identified that, at present, there is some uncertainty surrounding the extent of action and environmental impacts that may arise as a result of more ambitious targets. The Environmental Report recommended that as new plans and policies emerge, the potential for cumulative impacts must be kept in mind.
2.2.4 The technical proposals for the establishment of a target framework as part of the Bill were seen as not likely to have significant environmental effects as these are largely administrative in nature. Therefore, these proposals were not included in the assessment.
2.3. Integration of Environmental Considerations into the Climate Change Bill
2.3.1 Preparing the environmental baseline as part of the Bill SEA Environmental Report aided in taking into account environmental considerations in the development of the draft Bill itself. The focus of the SEA was on the environmental effects resulting from the increased ambition of Scotland's emission reductions targets. As detailed proposals and policies for the delivery of the new statutory targets were expected to be developed following the implementation of the Bill, through statutory strategic delivery plans ("Climate Change Plans") required under the legislation, the SEA Environmental Report focused solely on the proposals regarding the strategic ambitions and not on potential mechanisms to deliver these.
2.4. Consultation and engagement
2.4.1 The proposals in the Climate Change Bill were informed by a comprehensive consultation process. This included advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change, discussions with key stakeholders, and a number of wider consultation workshops and events.
2.4.2 The formal public consultation took place in the period June – September 2017 with a number of other engagement events during the preparation of the Bill. These included two discussion business breakfast events hosted by Scotland's 2020 Climate Group, six community consultation events run by the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network titled "We need more ambition!" which ran in the same period as the public consultation, and a stakeholder event discussing the technical aspects of the consultation paper.
2.4.3 A technical discussion group was also established, which met five times in the period October 2017 – February 2018 and considered the technical elements of the Bill. There was also an additional stakeholder event in January 2018 to discuss updated advice received from the UK Committee Climate Change in December 2017 on one technical aspect of the emissions accounting proposals.
2.4.4 All of the above engagement was used alongside formal responses to the public consultation to inform the Climate Change Bill as introduced to Parliament.
2.5. Structure of the Post Adoption Statement
2.5.1 This Post Adoption Statement concludes the SEA process and sets out those ways in which the findings of the SEA Environmental Report and the views expressed by consultation respondents have been taken into account as the Bill was finalised into the 2019 Act.
2.5.2 Section 18(3) of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 sets out the information that should be included in the Post Adoption Statement. This can be summarised as:
- how environmental considerations have been integrated into the plan, programme, or strategy;
- how the Environmental Report has been taken into account;
- how the opinions of consultees have been taken into account;
- the reasons for choosing the strategy as adopted, in light of the other reasonable alternatives considered; and
- the measures to be taken to monitor the significant environmental effects of the implementation of the plan, programme or strategy.