Scotland and the sustainable development goals: a national review to drive action

This review provides a statement of our pre-COVID-19 ambition on driving progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Scotland. It brings together evidence, actions and stories of how we are making progress to meet the Goals.

13 Climate Action

  • Environment
  • Economy

Tackling climate change is the defining issue of our time and it is crucial that we all take action to prevent the acceleration of a global crisis. Across Scotland and the globe, public awareness and concern are increasing, as the recent youth strikes and protects indicate. The Scottish Government is acting accordingly. The First Minister of Scotland has declared a climate emergency in April 2019, in line with the existing evidence on climate change and the recent scientific advice, including from the Committee on Climate Change. As a first step in response to this emergency, the Scottish Government has introduced amendments to Scotland’s Climate Change Bill to introduce a net zero target for all greenhouse gases to 2045.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published their report on limiting global warming to 1.5°C in October 2018. This indicates that the consequences of 1°C of global warming are already being seen through such phenomena as more extreme weather events, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice. The report highlights a number of impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C or more. For instance, the report states that by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 centimetres lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C, and the likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

In Scotland too, we are already starting to feel the impacts of a changing climate, as average temperatures in Scotland increase in line with global trends, annual rainfall has increased since the 1970s and sea levels have risen around our coasts.[14] And more serious impacts are being felt across the world, particularly by communities that are already vulnerable and have done the least to cause global warming. The IPCC report however, tells us that it is not too late to turn things around, but that transformative change is needed. And Scotland is leading the way in the transition to a carbon neutral world.

Following independent, expert advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in May 2019, the Scottish Government responded immediately with amendments to Scotland’s Climate Change Bill to set a 2045 target for net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases and increase the targets for 2030 and 2040. The Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee voted in favour of these targets at Stage 2 of the Bill process in June and subsequently the Scottish Parliament voted to pass the Bill at Stage 3, in September 2019. This means that Scotland’s ambition is to end contribution to climate change, definitively, within a generation.

We are working hard to ensure our high ambition is matched by on-the-ground delivery. The Scottish Government has committed to updating the current Climate Change Plan within 6 months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent. We are looking across our responsibilities in Scotland to make sure we continue with the policies that are working and identify areas where we can go further, faster. The Scottish Government has already announced new and ambitious action on deposit return, agriculture and renewables and a change in the policy on Air Departure Tax. It has also announced help for social landlords to improve energy efficiency; measures to empower energy consumers to shape Scotland’s move towards affordable, clean energy; and funding to promote locally sourced food and drink. The Government is also significantly increasing funds available for peatland restoration in 2019/20 by providing an additional £11 million. The CCC has been explicit that “Scotland cannot deliver net zero emissions by 2045 through devolved policy alone”. It is welcome that the UK Government has followed Scotland’s lead to legislate for a net zero target.

UK-wide policies will need to ramp up significantly, and the Scottish Government has called on the UK Government to act in reserved areas.

Scotland has already almost halved emissions since 1990, which are down 47% in 2017, while growing the economy, increasing employment and productivity and we will continue in this vein. Our transition to net zero will be just and fair to everyone. No-one will be left behind. The Scottish Government’s Big Climate Conversation is engaging the public, communities, businesses, industry, and the public sector in a discussion about what more can be done.

Scotland’s overall contribution to the newly proposed emissions target will be based upon a shared understanding between government, society and business of what needs to be done. Whilst Scotland has already made great strides in delivering on Goal 13, we recognise that we need to deliver the transformative changes that are needed to meet our increased ambition, and require a fundamental shift across all sectors of the economy and all parts of society. This offers social and economic opportunities, but it is also important to recognise that there will be risks and challenges to overcome.

Integration into national planning, strategies and policies (target 13.2)

Climate Change (Scotland) Act and current Climate Change Bill

Scotland has a long-established statutory framework for mitigating and adapting to climate change, which is subject to ongoing scrutiny and review. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 introduced ambitious targets and legislation to reduce Scotland’s emissions by at least 80% by 2050. As well as domestic emissions, Scotland was the first country in the world to include a fair share of emissions from international aviation and shipping in its targets and to mandate that we achieve our goals by domestic effort alone.

The first graphic shows that source emissions of greenhouse gas have decreased 46.8% from 1990 and 3.3% from 2016 to a value of 40.5 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. The second graphic shows that adjusted emissions have decreased 39.1% from the baseline period, but are up 3.7% from 2016, to a value of 46.410 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Source Emissions
Adjusted Emissions: for Reporting Against Targets

As well as setting the statutory basis for emission reductions, the Act additionally places duties on public bodies relating to climate change and requires all Public Bodies in Scotland who appear on the ‘Major Player’ list to submit an annual report on compliance with their climate change duties. Local government has made a political commitment to combatting climate change, through the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. The full scale of such activity is captured in the annual reports produced as part of the public bodies reporting duty. The reports set out progress made with reducing carbon emissions and adapting to climate change across the public sector including the NHS, local authorities, transport authorities, government agencies and universities and colleges. The reports are published on the Sustainable Scotland Network website.

Closer Look - NHS Lothian

NHS Lothian holds the Carbon Trust Standard (and has done so consecutively for 8 years) and submits a mandatory climate change report to the Scottish Government. The NHS Board receives a report on Sustainability and Climate change on an annual basis. NHS Lothian, along with other NHS Boards in Scotland have participated in a Sustainability Assessment Exercise, which addresses all the SDGs. Many of these goals have been core to the NHS for some considerable time.

In 2018, Scotland became one of the first countries to respond to the United Nations Paris Agreement with legislation when it introduced the new Climate Change Bill to the Scottish Parliament in May 2018 to raise the ambition of its domestic emissions reduction targets in line with the Agreement. The targets in the Bill have been further updated in response to the publication of the Committee on Climate Change’s advice to set a legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. This means that Scotland’s contribution to climate change will end within a generation.

Climate Change Plan

Scotland has annual targets for greenhouse gas emissions and Scottish Ministers are required to report regularly to the Scottish Parliament on Scotland’s emissions and on the progress being made towards meeting our targets. Regular reports are also required setting out proposals and policies for meeting these targets, Since the 2009 Act was commenced, three such plans have been published.

Policies and proposals through which Scotland’s statutory emissions reduction targets from 2017 - 2032 will be met are set out in the Scottish Government’s third Climate Change Plan (RPP3), published in February 2018. The policies and proposals in the Plan include plans for the energy, buildings, transport, industry, waste, land use, land use change and forestry, and agriculture sectors.

Energy, transport and environment

The Plan was developed alongside the first whole-system Energy Strategy published in December 2017 setting out the Scottish Government’s 2050 vision for energy supply and use in Scotland, to ensure this is aligned with and supports our greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. More information about this strategy and Scotland’s support for clean and affordable energy is in Goal 7.

Tackling climate change reaches every aspect of the Scottish Government’s responsibilities and is designed to enable everyone to contribute to one of the most global challenges of our time. For example, the draft National Transport Strategy will have climate change action embedded throughout. The draft strategic framework for our National Transport Strategy (NTS2) has four priority themes and 12 outcomes and vision: We will have a sustainable, inclusive, and accessible transport system helping to deliver a healthier, more prosperous and fairer Scotland for communities, business and visitors with four priority themes: Helps our Economy Prosper, Improves our Health and Wellbeing, Takes Climate Action and Promotes Equality.

In 2018, the Scottish Government invited feedback on a draft Environment Strategy Vision and set of supporting Outcomes. The draft Vision is based on the concept of ‘one planet prosperity’, which means ‘protecting nature and living within the Earth’s sustainable limits, while building a more prosperous, innovative and successful nation’. The Scottish Government takes seriously the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ recent warning about the damage human beings are causing to the planet. Its report finds that the drivers of that damage have accelerated over the past 50 years, and climate change is one of the top five causes. Taking action to mitigate climate change will therefore be a key element of living within the Earth’s sustainable limits.

One of the Strategy’s Outcomes focuses specifically on climate action: ‘We are a climate leader and play our full role in limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C’. This is draft wording presented for feedback in an online discussion last year and will be reviewed taking account of feedback received through the online discussion, and other recent policy developments, before finalising the Outcome wording for the Environment Strategy. When developing the Strategy, the Scottish Government will identify high level priorities for action to deliver this Outcome; outline the wider economic and social benefits this will create; and demonstrate how this will help to deliver our contribution to the UN’s SDGs.

For other relevant strategies, such as the Land Use Strategy, see Goal 15 and the Tourism Strategy, see Goal 11 and 12.

Local delivery

As major players under the Climate Change (Scotland) 2009 Act, local authorities play a critical role in the delivery of Scotland’s climate change ambitions. Local authorities work in partnership with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to design and deliver a wide range of programmes, in transport (for example active travel, electric vehicles), planning (sustainable town centres), housing (energy efficiency measures), energy policy (local heat and energy efficiency strategies), education (both in schools and in the wider community), waste management (circular economy, recycling, landfill bans) to name but a few.

The Sustainable Scotland Network (SSN) is the national network for public sector sustainability and climate change professionals. It exists to support professionals and their organisations, so that the public sector is better able to deliver on sustainable development and climate change. The network also showcases action taken to reduce emissions and supports deeper commitment, action and innovation on climate change and sustainability. The SSN supports members and public sector organisations to address their climate change duties and demonstrate leadership on climate change and sustainable development by:

  • Raising awareness and understanding of climate change and sustainability across the Public Sector
  • Building capacity to scale up and improve public sector action on climate change at officer, leadership and project levels
  • Ensuring climate change reporting is effective and efficient and supports decision making across the Public Sector

A SSN Steering Group provides a senior-level, trusted space for public sector practitioners and decision-makers to engage directly with the Scottish Government, to work directly with peers from across the public sector, and to steer the development of SSN. The Steering Group is made up of SSN members, strategic partners, the Scottish Government, and delivery partners, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation and Sniffer.

Closer Look - Dynamic Coast: Scotland’s National Coastal Change Assessment

Dynamic Coast is a multi-stakeholder project led by the Scottish Government, managed by Scottish Natural Heritage, carried out by the University of Glasgow and is funded by CREW (Centre for Expertise in Water). Phase one of the project forecasts coastal change to 2050 based on past erosion rates. Key findings: four fifths of Scotland’s coastline is hard but 19% (3,802 km) is soft and at risk of erosion. Scotland’s beaches and dunes play a vital role in protecting £13 billion worth of buildings and roads, more than twice the £5 billion currently protected by engineered seawalls. Natural defences currently protect 9,000 buildings, 500 km of road, 60 km of rail track, 300 km of water supply lines, and airport runways such as Islay.

The second phase (Jan 2018 to Dec 2020) is investigating the anticipated impact of climate change on future coastal erosion and erosion exacerbated flooding and developing Mitigation, Adaptation & Resilience Plans at “Super Sites”, including Montrose Bay, St Andrews and Skara Brae.

Improved mitigation, adaptation and resilience in all countries (targets 13.1 and 13.3)

Climate change adaptation and mitigation are intrinsically linked. The more global mitigation the less we have to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Whilst Scotland is striving for the most ambitious, credible, climate emissions targets, our climate is already changing. No matter how successful we are at reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, it will still be necessary to adapt to climate change because many impacts of past emissions are already happening and will lead to changes in our climate for decades to come. As part of that it is also important to consider how efforts to tackle climate change – both in terms of mitigation and adaptation, can be delivered in a way that promotes social cohesion and equality.


To date, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which includes domestic emissions as well as a fair share of emissions from international aviation and shipping in the targets, has been effective in driving action. Scottish greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have almost halved since 1990.[15] And Scotland is also already seeing the economic benefits of the low carbon transition. In 2017, the Scottish low carbon and renewable energy sector supported over 46,000 jobs, and generated over £11 billion in turnover.[16]

The agriculture sector contributes to 90% of the total ammonia emissions in Scotland. Whilst ammonia emissions have slightly decreased since 1990, a recent increase in the use of urea-based fertilisers has led to emissions increasing, resulting in a plateauing of emissions. The Scottish Government’s Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future (CAFS) strategy is currently being reviewed to assess progress to date and make recommendations for future priorities. A working group looking specifically at agricultural, domestic and industrial emissions will consider and make recommendations on ammonia emissions as part of the review. We propose to consult on recommendations made later this year, 2019.

We understand that a fine balance must be found to ensure greenhouse gas reductions can continue to take place whilst Scotland continues to, for example, produce secure and sustainable food. To achieve this balance we are committed to working with our agricultural industry and our renowned scientific community, to find solutions that are beneficial for the environment, Scotland’s farmers and our wider food and drink industry. Our industry has a positive story to tell, such as the fact that we have seen a 29% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the 1990 baseline year, and as world-leaders in quality assurance and the priority we give to animal welfare for example.

We believe, that while steps are taken to reduce emissions from agriculture, for example, this should not be done in a way which simply exports the problem to countries which, in this instance, have a poorer track record in terms of animal welfare and production methods. We must also not forget that, Scottish farmers do a lot to contribute to emissions reduction through forestry, land use and electricity generation and we should recognise that emissions counted against agriculture in the Greenhouse Gas inventory do not reflect all that farmers do to reduce Scotland’s emissions. Balancing and reconciling this complex picture is an ongoing challenge across all our mitigation efforts.

The Scottish Government has taken a range of other actions to tackle climate change and reduce Scotland’s GHG emissions. For example, it has:

  • Launched the low carbon innovation fund – a £13.5 million development and capital funding award, and support for a number of world leading hydrogen demonstration projects, providing £6.3 million to date for the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project, and £1.3 million for Orkney’s Surf N Turf Project, the only project in the world producing hydrogen from tidal power
  • Supports a young farmer climate change champions scheme, which will work through peer-to-peer learning to highlight how farmers can improve efficiency, reduce GHG emissions, reduce costs, and enhance the sustainability of businesses

We acknowledge that transport is currently Scotland’s biggest emitting sector and that emissions from transport have been rising since 2013. That is why Scotland has bold plans in place and we intend to take further action. Our existing plans for transport, including our commitment to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars by 2032, will see the greatest emissions reduction, in absolute terms, of any sector over the lifetime of the Climate Change Plan (2018-2032). However, we acknowledge that further action to decarbonise transport is required to achieve net zero emissions by 2045. We are currently taking steps to further strengthen our policy framework on climate change through a review of the National Transport Strategy (NTS), for which taking climate action is a priority. In addition, a number of areas in the Transport Bill will contribute to our emissions reduction agenda including Low Emission Zones and the Workplace Parking Levy.

Following Scotland’s commitment to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars by 2032, 2018 saw 48% growth in registrations of ultra-low emission cars in Scotland. 2019 will see the 1000th public EV charge point installed in Scotland. Scotland has of one of Europe’s most comprehensive charge point networks. The Scottish Green Bus Fund has assisted the purchase of 475 low emission buses, and the proportion of ScotRail passengers travelling on electric trains has now reached 72%.

Since 2008, the Climate Challenge Fund has provided 1,097 grants totalling more than £101 million to 658 communities to support their move to low carbon living. The projects themselves cover activities that help deliver SDG 13 such as increasing the energy efficiency of community buildings, food growing, cutting waste, and the expansion of active and sustainable transport options. Projects aim to improve the climate literacy of their communities, and must have a measurable carbon emissions reduction.

The range of commitments in our Climate Change Plan mean that our climate action also helps to deliver other SDGs. For example our commitment to increase our woodland creation target to 15,000 hectares per year by 2025, increase woodland cover from around 18% to 21% by 2032, restore 250,000 hectares of Scotland’s degraded peatland by 2030 (see Goal 15), energy efficiency measures for housing including the launch of Energy Efficient Scotland (see Goal 7, 11), and continued efficiency improvements in Scottish agriculture (see Goal 2).

Further examples of action taken across Scotland is set out in the case studies below. Case studies in Goal 7 also show action taken to reduce emissions.

Closer Look - SP Energy Networks

SP Energy Networks’ £20 million Green Economy Fund is supporting delivery of Scotland’s most innovative low-carbon transport and heating projects, from electric buses to water-powered underground heat pumps. Second round applications to the fund are to support a wide range of different activities that can be seen to impact the Energy Network and demonstrate measurable social and/or environmental impacts.

Closer Look - Creative Carbon Scotland

Since 2018, Creative Scotland has required all Regularly Funded Organisations to produce a Carbon Management Plan covering the period of their funding as well as reporting annually on their carbon emissions. The response in the sector has been overwhelmingly positive, with over 99% of organisations reporting their emissions in September 2018, and 111 providing Carbon Management Plans for their funded period 2018-21. For 2019, organisations will be asked to provide a review and update of the Carbon Management plans they submitted in 2018 and report on carbon emissions for the period April 2018-March 2019.

For the organisations involved, the process of emissions reporting through to Carbon Management Planning in 2018 has been a learning process which has instilled a growing confidence in ‘Carbon Literacy’ and an appreciation of the benefits of managing resources to save carbon. The implementation of these Carbon Management Plans will involve more learning and development of different systems. Experience from manufacturing and other business sectors has shown that the best way to reduce emissions is to plan ahead, to examine the sources of the emissions from our past activities and make changes to find better, lower carbon ways to achieve our objectives. Like all plans, the outcomes of changes may not be what we expect with results in some cases exceeding expectations and in others disappointing, but in all cases our understanding grows.

Closer Look - The Green Arts Initiative

The Green Arts Initiative is an interactive community of Scottish arts organisations working to reduce their environmental impact. Run by Creative Carbon Scotland and Festivals Edinburgh since 2013, the Green Arts Initiative supports Scottish arts organisations to be at the forefront of growing an environmentally sustainable Scotland. network which aims to build and maintain a Scottish green arts community. Run by Creative Carbon Scotland and Festivals Edinburgh, it operates by:

  • Supporting the sharing of relevant knowledge, ideas and experiences
  • Enhancing the sustainability competencies of arts organisations across the country

All members use the Green Arts Initiative branding on their publicity, online, and in their building, to demonstrate their commitment to developing a greener arts sector throughout Scotland.

Closer Look - Edinburgh Open Streets

Edinburgh was the first city in the UK to join the Open Streets movement, joining Paris, Bogota, New York and many others with a programme of people friendly routes around the old town. Open Streets are programmes that temporarily open streets to people by closing them to cars.

On Sunday May 5 2019 Edinburgh closed a number of city centre streets to vehicles from 1200-1700 with blue badge holders being the exception. The programme is developed around five objectives and a vision to create a “people friendly” route around the Old Town. Open Streets seeks to help to increase public exploration, use and awareness of the connected areas in the old town. We are keen that this isn’t an events-led programme, but one that is shaped by the community, especially residents and businesses. The Open Streets team is currently looking to work with residents, communities, interest groups, and businesses that are keen to be involved.

The aim of open streets is to promote a healthy, active and inclusive city, tackling air pollution, as well as celebrating and adding to the culture of the city, and contributing to its economy.


Scotland has also made significant achievements in climate change adaptation over the past decade. Adaptation has been increasingly integrated into public bodies’ regular business and national strategies and guidance. Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Forestry, Historic Environment Scotland and Marine Scotland have long track records of working on adaptation.

In order to strengthen the resilience of our communities, society, economy and environment to the effects of climate change, the Scottish Government has had a national climate change adaptation programme since 2009. The first five-year Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme published in 2014 was designed to address over 130 climate risks through around 150 individual policies and proposals spanning three themes: natural environment; buildings and infrastructure; and society. The Programme contains a broad package of measures that help Scotland adapt to the effects of climate change, create a more resilient country for us to live and work in, and help to protect Scotland’s much loved natural environment.

The Scottish Government has published four progress reports, the Fourth Annual Progress Report was published in 2018. The Committee on Climate Change produced an independent assessment of the programme in March 2019. The assessment highlight areas of progress (including on peatland restoration, marine resilience and flood risk), concern (declines in seabird population, soil health, and increases in pests and disease in forests), and important evidence gaps (health impacts from climate change and the extent of housing and infrastructure development in flood risk areas).

Scotland’s second five-year Adaptation Programme under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 is to be published in 2019. The new programme has an outcomes-based approach derived from both the UN SDGs and Scotland’s NPF and will include adaptation behaviour change. The following diagram illustrates these connections and shows how the outcomes align with the 17 Goal as well as the 11 National Outcomes of the National.

Graphic showing the alignment of United Nations Sustainable Development goals with the National Performance Framework National Outcomes and the Climate Change Adoption Outcomes.

Alignment of the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme with Scotland’s NPF and the UN SDGs

The aims for the new Programme are to ensure that Scotland is resilient to the intensifying impacts of climate change as a crucial step to delivering a greener, fairer and more prosperous country, and help to create a better society for everyone who lives in Scotland.

The Programme’s seven high-level outcomes are centred on communities, climate justice, the economy, supporting systems, natural environment, marine environment, and international partnerships. It provides a strategic framework which integrates adaptation into wider Scottish Government and international policy making and delivery. It will deliver a step change in cross-cutting collaboration, emphasise the wider co-benefits of climate action, and bring a new focus on results, performance and measurement. For the first time, Scotland’s Adaptation Programme will explore adaptation behaviour change - how individuals, communities and businesses make the most important choices in respect of our changing climate.

Adaptation has been increasingly integrated into the public sector regular business and national strategies and guidance (target 13.2). The SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Forestry, Historic Environment Scotland and Marine Scotland have long track records of working on adaptation. £42 million is invested annually by the Scottish Government and local authorities on flood risk management, one of Scotland’s biggest climate risks, with specific work on flood risk disadvantage.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency, has a Climate Change Commitment Statement which includes a small number of powerful actions, where the agency has a strong role and influence, deploying staff to where they can make the biggest difference in tackling climate change. Climate change is a key crosscutting theme that underpins and re-enforces all the work SEPA does. It is at the core of regulation and flooding protection and will be integrated into all of SEPA’s sector plans.

Adaptation Scotland Programme (targets 13.1 and 13.3)

Specialised support on climate adaptation is provided through the Adaptation Scotland Programme, funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by sustainability charity Sniffer, which has supported important regional initiatives delivering on adaptation (for example the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve, Climate Ready Clyde, Edinburgh Adapts and Aberdeen Adapts – see below) and has increasing engagement with the business community. Through Adaptation Scotland, organisations, businesses and communities are supported to adapt to the impacts of climate change through connecting science and practice and building strong partnerships for planning and action.

Closer Look - Sniffer

Sniffer is a Scottish charity based in Edinburgh and has brokered knowledge on sustainability issues since 1994.

They believe that taking a collaborative approach to understanding and responding to environmental change will have the greatest benefit for people and places. Their aim is to bring people and ideas together to create a sustainable and resilient Scotland where people are working together so that the places where we live, work and play are ready for the challenges and opportunities of a changing climate and environment.

Sniffer delivers the Adaptation Scotland programme for the Scottish Government, helping the public sector, businesses and communities to understand what climate change will mean across Scotland, and to identify the best way for them to plan for the impact. They have initiated a number of place-based adaptation initiatives including Edinburgh Adapts, Aberdeen Adapts, and Climate Ready Clyde for which it now provides the technical secretariat. They also run a programme of activities on flood risk management as well as having a role in the secretariat for the Sustainable Scotland Network.

Climate Ready Places

Scotland is developing a unique place-based approach (Climate Ready Places) to climate change adaptation. This includes establishing regional initiatives and working at a localities scale to tackle local adaption challenges as part of wider development and regeneration initiatives.

Closer Look - Climate Ready

Climate Ready Clyde

Climate Ready Clyde is an initiative to create a shared vision, strategy and action plan for an adapting Glasgow City Region. 1.8 million people live and work in this region. A large number of businesses and organisations based here are increasingly impacted by the effects of climate change, from both local changes in weather and those happening around the world. Climate Ready Clyde brings partners together to work strategically to minimise the risks and seize the opportunities this brings for our economy, society and environment. In 2018 Climate Ready Clyde published a detailed climate risk and opportunity assessment for the Glasgow City Region and is now working to develop a regional strategy and action plan.

Climate Ready Business

The past year has seen an increase in business engagement and understanding of the climate risks and opportunities. The Climate Ready Clyde initiative has pioneered research to identify the economic implications of climate change for Glasgow City Region, including the headline impacts of climate change on the City Region’s economy and implications for key business sectors. Climate Ready Clyde is also developing an assessment of the City Region’s ‘adaptation economy’, i.e. the goods and services that the City Region provides which support adaptation and resilience to climate change, and key areas for growth.

Clydeplan also played a pivotal role in ensuring Glasgow City Region’s future economy, through development of their Strategic Flood Risk Assessment. The assessment analysed future flood risk to planned housing, strategic economic investment locations, industrial land, freight hubs and the City Region’s strategic centres to help inform decision making for future development.

The novel, innovative approach won an award in the process category for the Scottish awards for Quality in Planning 2017. Adaptation Scotland published a new Climate Ready Business guide in partnership with the 2020 Climate Group, Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland and supported two business engagement events including a successful business day held as part of the European Climate Change Adaptation Conference held in Glasgow in June 2017.

The VIBES Scottish Environment Business awards have added an adaptation award category and are working with Adaptation Scotland to increase awareness of business adaptation options as part of their engagement and events.

Closer Look - Edinburgh Adapts

Edinburgh Adapts began as a joint initiative between Adaptation Scotland and the Edinburgh Sustainable Development Partnership (ESDP). In December 2016 it published Edinburgh’s first Adaptation Action Plan and Vision. Progress on this plan and further adaptation engagement is now directed by a dedicated Steering Group, with members drawn from across key city organisations. Progress on the Action Plan has begun. In spring 2017 Edinburgh Adapts partnered with the University of Edinburgh to set a public engagement challenge on climate and food in the city with postgraduate students. Following this in April 2017, a workshop on Edinburgh’s coastal adaptation challenge brought together researchers and stakeholders to raise awareness of climate impacts coming from the sea. These are just two of the many actions specified in the plan which have already been completed.

Along with working towards the goals of the action plan, the Edinburgh Adapts team have participated in a number of events to raise awareness of Edinburgh adaptation challenge and ambition, including the United Nations House Scotland Climate Change Conference in March 2016, the Forth Estuary Forum Conference in November 2016 and the European Climate Change Adaptation Conference in June 2017.

A full progress report on Edinburgh Adapts’ achievements in its first full year, giving details on actions completed, actions started and areas in need of greater attention, is available.

Closer Look - Aberdeen Adapts

Aberdeen Adapts aims to help the city become more resilient to the impacts of climate change by creating its first climate change adaptation strategy. The project was selected for support from Adaptation Scotland following an open call for place-based partnerships in summer 2016. Jointly led by Aberdeen City Council and the University of Aberdeen, the project has used a wide range of engagement activities to collect views from local stakeholders on how best to prepare for the risks, and seize the opportunities inherent in our changing climate. A draft Aberdeen Adapts Action plan and governance options provide a strong foundation for action by partners in Aberdeen.

Closer Look - Levenmouth Adapts

The Levenmouth Adapts project aims to promote climate ready decision making in a way that incorporates community interests and champions the value of creative approaches to bring about change. The Levenmouth area of Fife is the location of a number of programmes of regeneration – including the ambitious River Leven Catchment Programme – which is being undertaken for the benefit of the local environment, people and businesses.

The programme is looking long term at projects that can be developed in the area through to 2030. Levenmouth is a priority area identified in the Levenmouth Strategic Assessment 2018 and Plan for Fife. This area one of the most deprived in Scotland and is also vulnerable to climate change; Levenmouth is like to be impacted by increased flooding, temperature changes, sea level rise and coastal erosion. It is therefore vital to think about the impacts of a changing climate and how to adapt as part of delivering a regeneration programme.

The Levenmouth Adapts project has been created as the first step in considering climate ready place making.

Just Transition Commission (targets 13.1, 13.2 and 13.3)

The Scottish Government has established a Just Transition Commission to advise Ministers on how to transition to a carbon-neutral economy in a way that is fair for all. The Commission operates independently from Government, developing its own work plan and priorities.

‘Just transition’ is a concept which has its roots in the international trade union movement. As we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the employment landscape shifts, we must take care to ensure no-one gets left behind. There are clear links between action to support a just transition and the SDGs and the concept was enshrined in the preamble to the Paris Agreement. Achieving a truly just transition means making links between climate, social and economic objectives. It is about integrating climate change measures into other national policies, strategies and planning.

Membership is drawn from a wide range of expertise, including business, industry, trade unions, third sector, youth and environmental groups. The Commission Chair is Professor Jim Skea, who, as well as being an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change co-chair, is an expert in technological innovation and energy systems.

The Commission met for the first time in January 2019, and over the next two years will get out around the country hearing from both experts and members of the public to help better understand the opportunities (and risks) arising from the move to a carbon-neutral economy.

Within two-years of its inaugural meeting, the Commission will provide a written report to Scottish Ministers that provides recommendations for action. These will help Ministers take action that:

  • Maximises the economic and social opportunities that the move to a carbon-neutral economy by 2045 offers
  • Builds on Scotland’s existing strengths and assets
  • Understands and mitigates risks that could arise in relation to regional cohesion, equalities, poverty (including fuel poverty), and a sustainable and inclusive labour market

Scotland’s Just Transition Commission provides an opportunity to highlight and build on the synergies between meeting climate change targets, delivering sustainable economic growth and supporting fair and inclusive employment.

Preparing for natural hazards (target 13.1)

In Scotland we produce the Scottish Risk Assessment (SRA) which is a civil contingencies risk assessment product that focuses on natural hazards and accidents. In the initial iteration it includes risk assessments on flooding and severe weather. Our SRA supplements the UK level National Risk Assessment by providing a set of risk scenarios that are more tailored to the Scottish context. The purpose of the SRA is to help the resilience community in Scotland to understand the disruptive challenges that we may face, and to use this to anticipate, assess, protect, mitigate, prepare, respond and recover.

To further improve the SRA, the next iteration - which the Scottish Government will publish in 2020 - will contain a number of new risk assessments which are aligned to climate change. By including scenarios on wildfire, surface water flooding, water scarcity and landslide, as well as a dedicated chapter on climate change impacts we will raise awareness and help build capacity across the resilience community to build mitigation, adaptation and impact reduction into local plans for dealing with disruptive events.

A robust risk assessment process ensures that planning is based on a sound foundation, to support this we have developed the Risk and Preparedness Assessment (RPA). The RPA process allows resilience partners to assess risks within their region and their level of preparedness to deal with the consequences of the identified risks. The RPA process focuses on developing resilience and dealing with consequences rather than causes of emergencies. This approach is an efficient way to build capacity and capability to deal with a wide range of different risks as many diverse events will generate similar consequences.

This all supports the commitment under our Climate Change Adaptation programme that the Scottish Government should assess the current level of capability within the emergency response system to deal with extreme weather events and take further steps as necessary to prepare for climate change.

Under target 13.1, indicator 13.1.1 asks for Number of deaths, missing persons and persons affected by disaster per 100,000 people. While a number of organisations collect disaster loss data in Scotland, the 2018 report for the National Centre for Resilience characterises data collection as “fragmented” and “sometimes sporadic”. Deaths in Scotland are classified using an internationally recognised system (the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Disease) which includes relevant codes for deaths resulting from disaster, however no deaths have been coded this way in Scotland since at least 2000. Hence at the present time it is challenging to generate specific and robust numbers on deaths, missing persons and persons affected by disaster for Scotland in the manner intended by target 13.1.

Closer Look - Flooding - A significant climate risk

Having invested over £300 million since 2008, in 2016 the Scottish Government committed to a further £420 million over a decade for local authority flood risk management measures.

The Selkirk Flood Protection Scheme was launched in February 2017. The scheme will protect approximately 600 properties (residential, business, agricultural, commercial and recreational) and critical infrastructure. The Scottish Government covers 80% of the estimated total cost of £31.4 million with the remainder being financed by Scottish Borders Council. The Selkirk Flood Protection Scheme won the Environmental Award at the Saltire Civil Engineering Awards last year. The Awards Panel was impressed with the multi-agency collaborative working which ensured multiple benefits were provided by the scheme, which has already protected properties from flooding on many occasions.

Elgin Flood Protection Scheme was launched in March 2017. The £86 million scheme is the largest civil engineering project to be undertaken in Moray. The Scottish Government covers 80% of the cost of the scheme. On 11 August 2014, whilst only partially completed, the scheme protected approximately 270 residential and 75 business premises from flooding, avoiding damages of an estimated £29 million.

Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s comprehensive programme on flood forecasting and warning includes: community engagement with Safer Communities partners; a new digital and radio campaign; and “RiverTrack” flood alerting pilot projects. Floodline provides live flooding information and advice to more than 26,000 people on how to prepare for, or cope with, the impacts of flooding. A daily Flood Guidance Statement is issued to over 500 emergency responders in Scotland.

Tackling sewer flooding is a high priority for Scottish Water. In 2010-15 studies were completed in six cities including Glasgow. The new Storm Water Management Strategy, published in February 2018 recognises the need for more sustainable solutions to remove surface water from the sewers and manage it on the surface. Scottish Water has committed £170 million in 2015-21 to tackle sewer flooding.

International (targets 13a and 13b)

As climate change is a global issue it requires all countries to take action to reduce green-house gas emissions, and strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change. The Scottish Government is committed to working with international partners to help us all meet our climate goals.

The Scottish Government takes a climate justice approach in recognition of the fact that it is the poor and vulnerable at home and overseas are the first to be affected by climate change, and will suffer the worst, yet have done little or nothing to cause the problem. The negative impacts of climate change are felt the most by those who are already vulnerable because of geography, poverty, gender, age, indigenous or minority status, and disability.

The Scottish Government set up a Climate Justice Fund in 2012, through which it will distribute up to £21 million on climate justice related activities by 2021 in its international development partner countries of Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda. From 2017, the fund has primarily been directed through two major programmes, the Climate Challenge Programme Malawi (CCPM) and the Climate Justice Innovation Fund (CJIF). The CCPM is a 3-year, £3.2 million contract being delivered with Scottish international development organisation SCIAF. It is a community-led programme of direct climate change-focused interventions such as agro-ecology, livestock distribution, business management training and renewable energy installation, working alongside a programme of advocacy focused on amplifying marginalised voices in the climate change conversation. Key to this programme is the leadership role that the communities themselves play in identifying their needs and designing the interventions that will work best in their community.

The CJIF is a commitment of £2 million towards small-scale projects in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia that display innovative solutions to the problems of climate change, with a view towards scaling up in the future. The Scottish Government currently funds twelve such projects, with work conducted on areas as diverse as biogas, artesian well technology, permaculture and organic pest control.

The Climate Justice Fund also supports the Water Futures Programme which is part of our HydroNation programme (see Goal 6). In addition to the Climate Justice Fund, the Scottish Government funds a number of international initiatives designed to support the global transition to a carbon neutral economy in a fair, just and inclusive way, including:

  • Support to the UNFCCC for their Gender Action Plan to promote the development of gender responsive climate policies
  • Support to the UNFCCC for the Marrekesh Partnership for Global Climate Action to increase collaboration between governments and the cities, regions, businesses and investors that must act on climate change
  • Support to the Women’s Delegates Fund to promote equal participation in global climate decision making
  • Support for the Futures Fund which accelerates climate action in developing regions
  • Support for the Solar Impulse Foundation to develop innovative solutions to climate change

Education and awareness-raising (target 13.3)

The Scottish Government recognises that public engagement on climate change is a vital part of the transition to a carbon-neutral society and is working with a number of partners to deliver key programmes. Last year the Scottish Government concluded a review of our current public engagement strategy in line with requirements in the 2009 Climate Change Act and is now revising its climate change engagement strategy to ensure our approach to behaviour change is commensurate with Scotland’s national and international ambition. To inform the development of the new public engagement strategy, the Scottish Government will hold a series of public workshops across Scotland this summer.

In 2018 the Scottish Government provided funding to the Royal Scottish Geographic Society to develop a climate literacy qualification. This will support businesses, local authorities and senior managers to understand climate change better and encourage them to play an active role in reducing global emissions.

Closer Look - Keep Scotland Beautiful

Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB) supports community-led organisations to gain an understanding of the carbon impacts of their activities, and be able to make informed choices about the lower carbon options available to them. KSB supports community-led organisations to be more confident in engaging with their communities and communicating about climate change. They offer an accredited carbon literacy training course that aims to have communities up to speed with the science behind climate change and likely impacts, but more importantly it builds confidence for members to speak about climate change and identify opportunities to reduce carbon emissions in the community. Since starting to offer Scotland’s first ever accredited carbon literacy training course for communities, over 300 attendees from the Hebrides to the Scottish Borders have been certified as carbon literate.

We want everyone in Scotland to be informed, prepared and active in tackling climate change and are working with partners to deliver programmes with children and young people, supporting education and action on climate change from pre-school to adulthood.

The Scottish Government has supported the Eco-Schools Scotland Programme since its creation 25 years ago, to provide support to schools in addressing environmental issues. To ensure continued climate awareness beyond primary education the Scottish Government recently funded the development of a new secondary school project: ‘Climate Ready Classrooms’. Eco Schools Scotland were the first country to incorporate the United Nations SDGs into the ‘Green Flag Journey’.

Closer Look - Eco Schools

Keep Scotland Beautiful run the Eco-Schools Scotland Programme and in doing so contribute to the delivery of target 4.7 and others related to environmental sustainability. ECO Schools Scotland is well embedded in Scottish schools and as an accredited scheme potentially provides data on progress on achieving the SDGs within schools. The programme provides schools with a straightforward means of linking their learning for sustainability work to the SDGs, acting as a stimulus and context for any projects being undertaken within this context. Challenges can arise around finding sufficient pupil and teacher time to sustain projects. The initiative is ideally placed to promote engagement, and although there is an existing high level of uptake, targeted support could encourage more schools to take part. Sciennes Primary School in Edinburgh has, for example, actively promoted the SDGs since their launch in September 2015. The SDGs have regularly featured in assemblies over the years and the school aligns relevant SDGs to Rights Respecting Schools and ECO Schools Scotland. The school finds that the SDGs have a natural fit with the Curriculum for Excellence, National Improvement Framework, and agendas around health and wellbeing, sustainability, pupil participation, youth social action, wider achievement, and Developing the Young Workforce (target 8.6, Goal 8).

The Scottish Government is also empowering climate leaders of the future in Scotland by funding the 2050 Climate Group’s Young Leaders Development Programme. This award-winning 12 month programme gives young adults the knowledge, skills and opportunities to take climate action.

Statistics suggest that, taken collectively, this work is making a difference. Survey data from the Scottish Household Survey published in 2018 show that the proportion of young people (age 16-24) who see climate change as an immediate and urgent problem increased by over half from 38% in 2013 to 58% in 2017. Among adults of all ages this proportion increased by one third from 46% to 61% during the same period.

The Scottish Government has also supported the 2050 Young Malawian Climate Leaders Project which is delivered in partnership by the 2050 Climate Group and Scotland Malawi Partnership in Scotland and the Malawi Scotland Partnership in Malawi. The project was designed to build a network of young people in Malawi who will be active in advocating for action on climate change, mirroring the approach of the 2050 Climate Group in Scotland. Activities have included workshops, knowledge sharing and cultural exchanges, focusing particularly on uplifting the views of young people in response to climate change.

Closer Look - 2050 Climate Group

2050 Climate Group is a youth-led, volunteer driven charity focused on tackling climate change. They engage, educate and empower young people to lead the transition to a low carbon Scotland. Over the last 3 years, nearly 400 young people have been through the Young Leaders Development Programme (a programme which combines leadership training and climate change education). On the ground change is being achieved through Young Leaders taking action, and influencing through personal, professional and political spheres. From developing community permaculture gardens; to starting new businesses such as a new vegan takeaway in Glasgow; as well as individuals strengthening environmental policies within their own organisations.

They have increased youth participation in decision making around climate change through a number of focus groups, policy consultations, co-producing a Sustainable Growth Agreement with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), representing the voice of young people with a 2050 Climate Group Commissioner on the Just Transition Commission and at an international level at the last four UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties (COP). They are establishing roots for a social movement which is already changing Scotland.

Closer Look - ScottishPower

In 2018 ScottishPower delivered a pilot project in collaboration with Glasgow Science Centre to train more than 100 teachers in Scotland on climate change. This Climate Change initiative, funded by ScottishPower, sees specialists deliver training sessions with teachers, exploring climate change through science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. ScottishPower will fund training a further 100 teachers in 2019.

Learning for sustainability is also covered in Goal 4.

Challenges and next steps

Scotland has a strong performance on Goal 13 Climate Action. However, we know that more needs to be done, and the Scottish Parliament has recently passed the new Climate Change Bill to further increase our ambition with a target to achieve net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. Independent advice from the Committee on Climate Change indicates that meeting this target by 2045 will require extensive changes across society and the economy, unprecedented in their overall scale. This will require us to take difficult decisions, raise awareness across Scotland, and enable cultural and behavioural changes.

In May 2019, Scottish Ministers announced that following updated advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change – and the new 2045 target for net zero emissions proposed as a result – reducing Air Departure Tax is no longer compatible with Scotland’s new emissions reduction targets. Additional announcements have also been made in response to the climate emergency, this includes a new, ambitious deposit return scheme; funding to strengthen the rail freight industry and reduce the amount of freight that travels by road; and a new farmer-led initiative to drive low-carbon, environmentally sustainable farming practices as well as new funding for e-bikes. The next iteration of the Scottish Risk Assessment (to be published in 2020) will also contain a number of new risk assessment aligned to climate change.

The Scottish Government are reviewing a range of policies across Government to ensure that we can meet those targets, to see what we can do to bring forward existing policy commitments and to identify areas where we can go further.

It also plans to update our Climate Change Plan six months after the new Climate Change Bill receives Royal Assent. The Scottish Government will be placing climate change at the heart of everything it does and it will be at the core of the next Programme for Government.

Scotland has always been an innovator. Responding to the climate emergency will not take us along an easy path, but Scotland is not in the business of taking the easy way out. We must all take this journey together, seize the economic opportunities available to us and redefine what world leadership means. Scotland has declared a global climate emergency and now Scotland must act as one to safeguard our planet for future generations.

It is important that our transition to a net zero GHG economy does not leave anyone behind. Scotland’s Just Transition Commission provides an opportunity to highlight and build on the synergies between meeting climate change targets, delivering sustainable economic growth and supporting fair and inclusive employment.

Commitments in the Scottish Government’s 2019-20 Programme for Government that relate to this Goal

  • Acknowledging the answer to the climate emergency will require working across the public, private and third sectors. The 2019-20 Programme for Government commits to the following in response to the Climate Emergency Response Group:
    • Mobilising public procurement to support the climate emergency response
    • Developing guidance so more people are encourage to eat more locally produced, sustainable and healthy food
    • Create a new Agricultural Transformation Programme
    • Make regional land use plans to maximise the potential of land to contribute towards responding to the climate emergency
    • Unlocking additional resource for emissions-reducing investment through the Green Growth Accelerator
    • Consult on Scotland’s ambition to make our city centres zero or ultra-low emission by 2030
    • Explore with partners the Climate Emergency Response Group ask on establishing a public interest company to operate Carbon Capture and Storage infrastructure
    • Set new standards to reduce energy demand within new building by 2021 and require new homes consented from 2024 to use renewable or low carbon heat
    • The Scottish Low Carbon Heat Funding Invitation will target a minimum of £30 million to support innovative low carbon ways of heating buildings
    • The next Energy Statement will set out the extent to which renewable and low carbon energy generation will need to combine in order to meet net zero
    • The primary mission of the Scottish National Investment Bank will be to ensure the transition to net zero



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