1. Introduction and context
Scotland's climate has already changed. The global climate emergency has led to more extreme weather events and rising sea levels. These trends are projected to continue and intensify. As a nation, our social and economic prosperity is increasingly reliant on how well we adapt to these current, and future, impacts of global climate change.
This fourth annual report to the Scottish Parliament provides an assessment of progress under the Scottish Government's current statutory programme for building resilience to the impacts of climate change: Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019-2024.
How has Scotland's climate already changed?
Over the last few decades, Scotland has experienced a warming trend, shifting rainfall patterns and rising sea levels:
- All of the UK's top 10 warmest years, in the time series from 1884, have occurred this century. 2022 was Scotland's warmest year on record.
- The annual average rainfall in the last decade (2010-2019) was 9% wetter than the 1961-1990 average, with winters 19% wetter.
- Mean sea level around the UK has risen by approximately 1.4 mm/year from the start of the 20th century.
The locked-in effects of climate change are already causing impacts for how we manage our water, maintain and develop our national infrastructure, restore our biodiversity, protect against soil degradation, and deliver health, social care and other essential services. These impacts are having significant economic and social repercussions for Scotland.
How will Scotland's climate continue to change?
The changes in climate that we are already experiencing are projected to continue
- 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 and may become more variable.
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 fourth 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 programme (SCCAP2)
The second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (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. Chapters 4 – 10 of this annual progress report provides examples of progress – since the time of the last report in May 2022 – in implementing policies and proposals that contribute towards each of the SCCAP2 outcomes.
This progress report relates primarily to the ongoing delivery of the SCCAP2 programme. However, it is also published in the context of the early stages of developing the next statutory Adaptation Programme, as summarised below and which is due to be finalised in Autumn 2024.
1.3 Updated Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3)
In June 2021, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its third Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk, including a Summary for Scotland report. The CCC's assessment found that action to improve resilience across all UK nations is generally failing to keep pace with the increasing risks associated with the impacts of climate change.
The CCC's risk assessment identifies 61 risks and opportunities in total, and is underpinned by a Technical Report. This updated independent evidence base and advice on climate risks has informed an updated formal, statutory UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2022 (CCRA3) laid before the UK Parliament in January 2022. Through the CCRA3, the Scottish Government (as well as the administrations of the other UK nations) have formally accepted the CCC's risk assessment in full.
The publication of the statutory CCRA3 triggered the duty on Scottish Ministers under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 to begin the process of developing the next Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, in response to the updated risk assessment. Further information on this process is set out in the "Next Steps" section below. In the meantime, we will continue to deliver the SCCAP2 programme alongside developing new measures to further strengthen the response.
1.4 CCC Independent Assessment of SCCAP2
The 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 CCC's high level conclusion in its independent assessment is that, whilst the vision for a well-adapted Scotland set out in SCCAP2 is welcome, more needs to be done to translate ambition into actions that are commensurate with the scale of the challenge. The Scottish Government has welcomed the CCC's independent assessment and an initial response to its recommendations were provided in the 2022 progress report.
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires two phases of independent assessment be undertaken within each 5 year planning cycle on adaptation. A second phase of assessment of the SCCAP2 programme is anticipated from the CCC before the end of 2023 and ahead of public consultation on SCCAP3 in early 2024.
1.5 The role of the Adaptation Scotland programme
The Adaptation Scotland programme is funded by the Scottish Government to support capacity building and action on climate adaptation by the public sector, including Local Authorities, businesses and communities across Scotland. This work includes developing Scotland's pioneering place-based approach to adaptation and promoting and supporting the use of the award-winning Adaptation Capability Framework. The contribution of the programme's activities to delivering the high-level outcomes in SCCAP2 is summarised in each chapter of this report.
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