Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme: progress report 2023 to 2024

Fifth annual progress report on Climate Ready Scotland: Scotland’s Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019 to 2024.

1. Introduction and context

The Scottish Government is focused on addressing what really matters to the people of Scotland – reducing poverty, delivering growth, helping to tackle climate change, and providing high quality public services. These four key goals are inextricably linked. The fair and equitable transition to a society that is both net zero and well-adapted to our changing climate is not a small effort. It will take all aspects of society to deliver.

Scotland’s climate has already changed. Recent events, including an increase in the number of named storms and confirmation that 2023 was the world’s hottest year on record, are stark reminders that climate change is not a far-off threat, it is a crisis that is here and now. A thriving Scottish economy, society and environment are increasingly reliant on how effectively we respond to the impacts of climate change. As a nation we must adapt.

This fifth annual report to Scottish Parliament provides an assessment of progress under the Scottish Government’s current statutory Adaptation Plan: Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019-2024. This is the final annual report prior to the publication of the new Scottish National Adaptation Plan 2024-2029 (SNAP3), scheduled to be laid in Parliament in Autumn 2024.

Scottish Ministers’ assessment of progress:

“We have taken notable steps forward in planning for adaptation, recognising that preparation and building resilience is always more sustainable that response and recovery. However, we recognise that gaps remain and we must now turn to delivery of SNAP3 following publication in the Autumn to ensure Scotland’s communities, economy and natural environment are supported to thrive in the face of a changing climate.”

How has Scotland’s climate changed?

Scotland is already experiencing a warming trend, shifting rainfall patterns and rising sea levels:

  • Our 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997. The average temperature for the last decade (2014-2023) was 1.02°C warmer than the 1961-1990 average, and the warmest year on record was 2022.
  • There has been an increase in rainfall over Scotland in the past few decades. The annual average rainfall in the last decade (2014-2023) was 10% wetter than the 1961-1990 average, with winters 29% wetter.
  • Mean sea level around the UK has risen by approximately 18.5cm from the start of the 20th century and the rate of sea level rise has increased over the last 30 years.

These changes are impacting how we manage our water and land, how we maintain and develop our national infrastructure, restore our biodiversity, protect against soil degradation, and how health, social care and other essential services are delivered in communities across Scotland. Collectively these impacts are already having significant economic and social repercussions.

Finally, while we know climate change impacts us all, it doesn’t impact us equally. It is important to recognise that the pace and scale of climate impacts vary substantially across Scotland and there are communities that are already particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

How will Scotland’s climate continue to change?

Changes to our climate are driven by global greenhouse gas emissions, which continue to rise substantially. This means those changes we are already experiencing are projected to continue and intensify:

  • Average temperatures will increase across all seasons.
  • Typical summers will be warmer and drier.
  • Typical winters will be milder and wetter.
  • Intense, heavy rainfall events will increase in both winter and summer.
  • Sea levels will rise.
  • There will be reduced frost and snowfall.
  • Weather will remain variable, with increased incidents of storms.

For further information on these changes, see Adaptation Scotland's summary of the UK Climate Projections for Scotland (published January 2021). This resource is intended to help build common understanding on the future climate that Scotland will experience.

1.1 Statutory framework for adaptation

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 sets the statutory framework for Scotland to adapt to climate change. The legislation requires a programme of policies and proposals for climate change adaptation to be set out every five years. These programmes must address risks identified in the statutory UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA), which is also updated every five years, based on independent expert advice around the evidence on current and expected future climate impacts.

This is the fifth annual progress report on the second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme since its publication in Autumn 2019. This report is published in line with Scottish Ministers duties under section 54 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Copies of previous progress reports can be found on the Scottish Government website.

1.2 Scotland’s current adaptation plan (SCCAP2)

The current adaptation plan (SCCAP2) sets out over 170 policies and proposals (and an associated research programme) to respond over the period 2019 to 2024 to the risks for Scotland identified in the 2017 UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA2).

SCCAP2 takes an outcomes-based approach, derived from both the UN Sustainable Development Goals and aligned to Scotland's National Performance Framework. This approach is designed to integrate action on adaptation into wider Scottish Government policy 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.

The draft of the next adaptation plan, the Scottish National Adaptation Plan (SNAP3) was opened for public consultation from January to April 2024. The final SNAP3 is scheduled to be laid in Parliament this Autumn. It will set out the next five-year (2024–2029) policy response to the 2022 UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3).

1.3 CCC Independent Assessments of SCCAP2

CCC published its first independent assessment of SCCAP2 Is Scotland climate ready? – 2022 Report to Scottish Parliament and accompanying advice The just transition and climate change adaptation in March 2022. The second statutory assessment, Adapting to climate change Progress in Scotland, was published in November 2023.

The CCC’s high level conclusion in its second independent assessment is that, in the eighteen months since the first independent assessment, there have been several notable steps forward on adaptation policy; however, important gaps remain around delivery and implementation. The CCC provided key recommendations for the structure of the next adaptation programme and a detailed set of specific recommendations for ongoing action to strengthen adaptation across sectors. The Scottish Government has welcomed the CCC’s independent assessment and has taken forward the recommendations in the development of SNAP3. Section 4 of this report provides information on Scottish Government’s action in relation to the CCC’s 2023 recommendations.

1.4 Development of the Scottish National Adaptation Plan (SNAP3)

Since the adoption of CCRA3 in January 2022, the Scottish Government has been working with external and internal stakeholders across sectors to produce the next statutory five-year adaptation plan that responds to the updated assessment of climate risk and opportunity. In summer 2023, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition laid out actions being taken in the short-term to prepare for more extreme weather and other climate risks in a letter to the CCC’s Adaptation Committee Chair, Baroness Brown of Cambridge. This provided a policy package to build upon, setting out the actions and ambition on fostering resilience for the next Adaptation Plan.

On the 31 January 2024, the Scottish Government launched a 12-week public consultation to seek views on a draft SNAP3. The final SNAP3 will set out actions for the next five years across a wide range of issues, from addressing extreme weather events such as flooding, to changes in agricultural production and the impacts a changing climate may have on supply chains for vital good, foods and services. Provision will also be made to maximise the potential economic opportunities of climate change e.g. longer growing seasons and potential market gaps for technological innovation to respond to climate change.

During consultation on the draft SNAP3, a formal public consultation was opened on the Scottish Government’s ‘Citizen Space’ (the official online consultation platform), alongside a series of events tailored to both delivery partners and the general public to gather a wide range of views on the policy proposals in the draft. The consultation closed on 24 April 2024.

The Scottish Government received 243 written responses to the SNAP3 consultation. Hundreds of people also attended the SNAP3 consultation events which fielded open discussion on the impacts of climate change and raised the profile of climate adaptation policy across Scotland’s communities. The content of the consultation responses is currently under analysis and will be used to inform the development of the final SNAP.

Why is there a difference in names between the second and third Adaptation Plan?

The name of the adaptation programme has been changed from the previous title ‘Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme’ to the ‘Scottish National Adaptation Plan’ to more closely align with international naming practices. This change also aligns the Adaptation Plans with the two other key pillars of the Scottish Government’s climate policy, the Climate Change Plan, which focusses on decarbonisation and climate mitigation, and the Just Transition Plans.

What are the next steps?

Responses to the consultation are currently undergoing analysis and will inform the final Adaptation Plan. An analysis report will be published in the next few months and summarise the findings based on all responses submitted. It will be published on the Scottish Government website and consultation respondents may be notified about it if permission was provided.



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