The twelve month period since the May 2020 annual report was laid in Parliament has been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has presented an unprecedented challenge to individuals, communities, and businesses across Scotland. It has also clearly indicated that national conversations about identifying and building resilience to systemic risks are more real and pressing than ever before. During that same month of May 2020, the Scottish Government sought advice from the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) on a green recovery for Scotland from COVID-19. The CCC advised that increased resilience to the impacts of climate change must be at the centre of a green recovery, alongside an ongoing focus on reducing emissions in a way that is fair and just. The Scottish Government has welcomed this advice and acted upon it.
Both the 2020-21 Programme for Government (PfG) and the 2021-22 Budget have helped to lay the foundations for a green recovery – one in which we will rebuild from COVID-19 to a fairer, stronger and net-zero emissions economy. As a key part of this, we have set out major enhancements to our investments in Scotland's resilience to the impacts of climate change, with an extra £150 million for flood risk management (in addition to continuing to provide £42 million annually to local authorities) and £12 million for coastal change adaptation.
As Scotland begins to recover from the pandemic, the effects of climate change will continue to be felt and we must be prepared for these to increase over coming years and decades. The Scottish Government funded Adaptation Scotland programme has recently published a summary of the most up to date UK Met Office scientific projections of future changes to Scotland's climate. This indicates that Scotland's ten warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997 and that our climate is projected to become increasingly wetter and warmer.
While our commitment to reaching net-zero emissions is at the heart of our approach to tackling the global climate emergency, and has been further strengthened by our recently updated Climate Change Plan, we are also continuing to prepare Scotland for the changes which are already locked in. The publication of our draft Public Engagement Strategy for Climate Change alongside the Climate Change Plan Update marked a new chapter in our people-centred approach to climate change policy. It outlines our overarching framework for engaging the public and communities on climate change, ensuring a green recovery from COVID-19. As a key part of this, we consider climate change adaptation alongside mitigation in order to continue to build public understanding of climate risks and encourage action.
We are continuing to deliver the second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP2) which was published in September 2019 and has an implementation period up to 2024. SCCAP2 addresses the priority climate risks for Scotland set out in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 and its underpinning Evidence Report for Scotland. A brief summary of key findings from the risk assessment is set out in the Annex.
The Scottish Government has also recently strengthened our legislative framework to support public bodies' leadership role in adapting to climate change. The Climate Change (Duties of Public Bodies: Reporting Requirements) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020 sets out that public bodies will be required from reporting year 2021-22 to provide in their annual reports, where applicable, what contribution the body has made to help deliver SCCAP2.
Outcomes-based structure to this report
This is the second annual progress report on the SCCAP2 programme. SCCAP2 uses an outcomes-based approach, derived from both the UN Sustainable
Development Goals and aligned to Scotland's National Performance Framework. This approach ensures that actions over the next five years to increase the capacity of Scotland's people, communities, businesses and public sector to adapt to climate change will also complement our international ambitions and integrate action on adaptation into wider Scottish Government policy development and service delivery.
There are seven high-level outcomes within SCCAP2, covering Scotland's communities, businesses and natural environment as well as our engagement with international partners. This annual progress report is also split into the same seven chapters. Each chapter provides examples of progress – since the time of the last report in May 2020 – in implementing the policies and proposals that contribute towards that outcome. In some chapters, the examples are further grouped according to the sub-outcomes used within that chapter of SCCAP2. The final chapter of this report summarises progress on the programme of cross-cutting research commitments in SCCAP2.
This report builds on the progress outlined in the first annual report on SCCAP2 as well as that which was achieved under the first Scottish Adaptation Programme, as set out in previous annual reports covering the years 2015 to 2019. Copies of all of those reports can be found on the Scottish Government website.
The role of the Adaptation Scotland programme
The Adaptation Scotland programme is funded by the Scottish Government to support capacity building and action on adaptation by the public sector, businesses and communities across Scotland. This work includes developing Scotland's pioneering place-based approach to adaptation. The contribution of the programme's activities to delivering the high-level outcomes in SCCAP2 is summarised at the end of each chapter of this report.
Impacts of SEPA cyberattack and COVID-19 on preparation of this report
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) plays a key role in delivering many of the national policies set out in SCCAP2, in particular in relation to flood risk management.
On 24 December 2020, SEPA confirmed that it was responding to a significant cyber-attack affecting its contact centre, internal systems, processes and communication. The attack is (at the time of writing this report) subject to a live criminal investigation. The attack has drastically impacted the organisation and its focus is currently on providing its essential services to protect Scotland's environment and support individuals and businesses. In this context, and given the lost access to email systems, colleagues at SEPA have been unable to contribute directly to the preparation of this year's annual progress report. Where possible, updates on the relevant policies have been provided by the relevant Scottish Government policy teams instead but this cannot cover all elements.
Some other policy areas, in particular those involved in the health-related outcomes in SCCAP2, continue to be heavily impacted by pressures associated with the immediate response to COVID-19. As such, the capacity of those teams to contribute to this year's progress report has remained limited.
Scottish Ministers' assessment of progress towards implementing the objectives, proposals and policies set out in SCCAP2
Whilst the past twelve months have clearly been an exceptional period in many ways, the overall assessment of Scottish Ministers is that good progress continues to be made in implementing SCCAP2.
In particular, the announcements over the past year of enhanced funding commitments for flood risk management and coastal change adaptation will support the accelerated delivery of several of the key SCCAP2 outcomes as part of a green recovery from COVID-19.
The Evidence Reports for the next round of UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (UKCCRA3) are expected to be published by the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) in June 2021. These will then be followed by the statutory UKCCRA3 document from the UK Government in early 2022. The updated risk assessment information set out across these documents will form the main evidence base for developing the third SCCAP (SCCAP3), which is due to be published no later than September 2024 and will cover the five year period from the point of publication.
Whilst the next SCCAP is being prepared, annual reporting on progress to delivering SCCAP2 will continue each May. Furthermore, the Scottish Government will also be requesting that the CCC prepares two rounds of independent assessment of SCCAP2 which, along with the updated evidence from UKCCRA3, will help to inform our approach to SCCAP3. The first of these independent assessments is expected to be prepared in 2022.
A further area of ongoing work is the development of a monitoring framework for tracking progress to the SCCAP2 outcomes. This is an area where not as much progress has been made since the time of the May 2020 report as we had hoped, largely due to the wider impacts of COVID-19 and other work. The Scottish Government remains committed to improving the evidence base around progress on adaptation and resilience and we will provide further updates on this work in due course. In the meantime, the SCCAP2 research programme (see Chapter 8 of this report) is making some substantial progress towards addressing some of the specific evidence gaps around monitoring with relevance to adaptation and resilience, specifically with regards to soil vulnerability to climate change.
Another major upcoming milestone for climate change action, across both adaptation and mitigation, will be the COP26 summit hosted in Glasgow in November 2021. The Scottish Government is committed to playing our part to deliver a global deal that sets the world on track to warming of less than 1.5ºC and increased resilience to the already changing climate. COP26 is an opportunity to demonstrate and accelerate the world leading climate action we are taking. We have the world's most ambitious legislative framework for emissions reduction and a mature statutory programme for adaptation action, and we are determined to make a Just Transition to net zero by 2045. It is a truly national endeavour where no one can be left behind.
In advance of the summit, the Scottish Government will publish an indicative nationally determined contribution, set out in the spirit of the Paris Agreement. This will include a summary of our approaches to adaptation and resilience, both here in Scotland and internationally. At the summit itself, our key themes of people and just transition will provide ample opportunities for showcasing the innovative approaches to adaptation happening across Scotland.