Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme

Details Scottish Minister's objectives, policies and proposals to tackle the climate change impacts to Scotland from the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment.

Introduction and Context

Section 56 of the Climate Change Act 2008 [1] requires the UK Government to publish 5-yearly assessments of risk to the UK. The first UK Climate Change Risk Assessment ( CCRA) was published in January 2012 and provides an assessment of the current and predicted threats and opportunities to the UK from climate change. It includes a Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland [2] .

Following these assessments, section 53 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 (hereafter referred to as "the Act") [3] requires Scottish Ministers to lay a programme before the Scottish Parliament, setting out:

  • their objectives in relation to adaptation to climate change;
  • their proposals and policies for meeting those objectives;
  • the period within which those proposals and policies will be introduced; and
  • otherwise addressing the risks identified in the report under section 56 of the Climate Change Act 2008.

The Act also requires the programme to set out the arrangements for involving employers, trade unions and other stakeholders in meeting Scottish Ministers objectives; and the mechanisms for ensuring public engagement in meeting those objectives.

The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment ( UK CCRA)

The Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland describes, and where possible quantifies, the impacts from climate change facing Scotland up until 2100. The assessment is based primarily on the UK Climate Projections which were published in 2009 ( UKCP09) [4] . UKCP09 provides projections of future climate from the present to 2100, and represents the most authoritative evidence of potential changes in climate for Scotland.

Over 130 impacts for Scotland have been identified, and while the majority of these represent potential threats for Scotland, some present potential opportunities. The impacts vary in character and whilst some have been quantified, others have had to rely on expert elicitation or a narrative based on literature. To allow some comparison of different risks, they have been categorised into classes of 'high', 'medium' and 'low' magnitude consequences and 'high', 'medium' and 'low' confidence. The overall confidence is generally 'low' to 'medium', with only impacts that are already experienced and those related to increased temperatures classified with 'high' confidence. Some impacts are identified as 'too uncertain', either because the science is not sufficiently well advanced to understand the scale of the consequences or the inherent uncertainty is too great.

This information, and other information where available, has been used to inform those impacts that the Scottish Government considers to require early adaptation action as highlighted in the Annex to this Programme.

Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme

This Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (hereafter referred to as "the Programme") addresses the impacts identified for Scotland in the UKCCRA. The Programme does not directly address matters which are expressly reserved to the UK Government [5] . Reserved matters are dealt with under the UK Government's National Adaptation Programme.

Due to the inherent uncertainty in some aspects of climate change, adaptation policies need to be flexible and adjusted as and when new information becomes available. The Programme is part of an iterative process and subsequent programmes are required to address impacts and opportunities identified in progressive CCRAs due every 5 years.

The Programme is structured around an overarching aim and three themes. There will inevitably be interactions between each theme and they should not be viewed in isolation. For example, the health and productivity of ecosystems underpins agriculture which is essential for livelihood and food security. Reducing vulnerability and building resilience in the natural environment will therefore help to reduce vulnerability and build resilience for society. And adapting our buildings can bring additional public health benefits for society by reducing heat and cold-related mortality, indoor air pollution and mould growth.

Each theme has an outcome that the Programme is seeking to deliver in the long term (up to 2050), and within each theme are three objectives (referenced by Theme as N1-N3, B1-B3 and S1-S3). This sets the long term framework for future Programmes ( Figure 1).

Each Programme will set out the policies and proposals that provide the focus for the lifetime of that Programme in order to progress towards the long term objective. These will evolve and develop with each Programme, providing flexibility to adjust to new understanding and information.

Figure 1: Overarching Aim, Themes and Objectives

Figure 1 Overarching Aim, Themes and Objectives


Delivery of the Programme will be overseen by the Climate Change Delivery Board (formerly the Emissions Reduction Programme Board).

The Board was established by the Scottish Government to oversee delivery of the statutory annual emissions reduction targets required by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. The Board meets quarterly and is chaired by the Director-General Enterprise, Environment and Digital. Membership covers Directors from the key areas within the Scottish Government involved with delivering emissions reductions.

The Board's scope will be expanded to include a new governance and reporting role for the Programme. Membership will be reviewed to ensure that Directors with responsibility for delivery of policies and proposals in the Programme are appropriately represented.

Monitoring and Reporting

The Act requires Scottish Ministers to provide an annual report on progress towards achieving the objectives and implementing the policies and proposals set out in the Adaptation Programme.

The Act also establishes the requirement to independently assess the Scottish Government's progress towards achieving the objectives and implementing the actions set out in the Adaptation Programme. An independent assessment must be commissioned within two years of this Programme being laid before the Scottish Parliament. The UK Committee on Climate Change is currently designated to perform this independent scrutiny role. In the event of a Scottish climate change advisory body being established, this function would revert to the Scottish body.

Public Bodies Climate Change Duties

Laying of the Programme before the Scottish Parliament brings into force the adaptation requirement of the public bodies climate change duties introduced by section 44 of the Act which requires that a public body within the definition of the Act, must, in exercising its functions, act in the way best calculated to help deliver the Programme.

Guidance [6] to assist public bodies comply with the duties has been published by the Scottish Government.


The Programme is divided into 2 sections, with supporting annex:

Section 1: Objectives, Policies and Proposals

Section 2: Engaging Others



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