6. Directorate For Energy And Climate Change
The Scottish Government play an active role in maintaining and improving the quality of all fresh and marine waters in Scotland, and in ensuring that our water resources are managed and supplied responsibly. We work closely with partners to ensure that environmental protection is balanced with the interests and safety of industry and consumers.
Scotland's public drinking water and sewerage services are provided by Scottish Water, a public company accountable to Scottish Ministers and Scottish Parliament. Scottish Ministers are responsible for setting the objectives for the water industry. One of the directions placed on Scottish Water is to support the achievement of the Scottish Government's targets for the proportion of natural features in favourable condition. Scottish Water is required to work with Scottish Natural Heritage (now NatureScot) to identify and undertake management activities at identified sites that will contribute to achievement of the national indicator 'Improve the condition of protected nature sites'. Scottish Water support Scotland's biodiversity strategy by managing landholdings across Scotland, primarily to protect rivers and reservoirs that supply drinking water in Drinking Water Protected Areas (DWPA), and working with landowners and tenants to protect healthy ecosystems and maintain landscape value.
Scottish Water's 25-year strategic plan – Our Future Together – was published in February 2020 and outlines the impact of the changing climate and how the organisation will reduce emissions to become net zero by 2040 including peatland restoration work that not only helps lock up carbon but has additional benefits for improved biodiversity. The Net Zero Routemap gives further examples of natural solutions being applied across land owned by Scottish Water to improve biodiversity and the target of a net gain in biodiversity by 2030. Further information on actions undertaken by Scottish Water to support and promote biodiversity are detailed in its Sustainability Report 2019.
As part of the Directorate, the Energy Consents Unit (ECU) processes applications under the Electricity Act 1989 to construct and operate generating stations and/or electricity grid infrastructure. These generating stations and grid infrastructure projects are typically of a size that require the applicant to complete an Environmental Impact Assessment (under The Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulation 2017). This requires a report to be submitted to the ECU as part of the application process.
Once received, the ECU consult with a wide range of stakeholders, specifically Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in relation to any impacts identified by the applicant on Scotland's flora and fauna. SNH, through the medium of standing advice and tailored advice bespoke to a particular application, advise the ECU if the application will be acceptable or indeed if an objection should be raised. In determining any application, Ministers will take this advice, along with other consultees views, into account to consider if the project should be consented or refused. Procuring NatureScot's expert advice, among other consultees, allows Ministers to assess the application's merits, and where appropriate attach conditions that will either enhance biodiversity and/or help to conserve biodiversity.
Additionally, for applications that do not require an Environmental Impact Assessment, consideration is always given to conserving and where possible enhancing Scotland's biodiversity through the use of planning conditions (if consent is received).
6.1 Nature Based Solutions, Climate Change And Biodiversity
What steps have your team taken to incorporate biodiversity outcomes into partnership initiatives, wider strategies or initiatives of relevance to climate change?
Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme
The Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019-2024 sets out how we are responding to the main climate risks for Scotland – as identified by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and covering a range of global warming scenarios. In total, there are around 170 policies and proposals across Scotland. The programme aims to achieve seven high-level outcomes under which adaptation policies are grouped. Although biodiversity cuts across the programme, the two outcomes which set out a number of policies to increase and protect biodiversity in Scotland are:
- Outcome 5: Our natural environment is valued, enjoyed, protected and enhanced and has increased resilience to climate change
- Outcome 6: Our coastal and marine environment is valued, enjoyed, protected and enhanced and has increased resilience to climate change set out a number of policies which will, among other goals, increase and protect biodiversity in Scotland.
To complement adaptation policy goals, the Programme also includes research outcomes to improve the evidence base on adaptation. In collaboration with ClimateXChange and the John Hutton Institute we published a report on measuring the vulnerabilities of soils to climate change in October 2020 and hope to build on this research with a second paper in 2021.
Looking ahead, what do you think will be the main climate change related challenges for biodiversity over the next three years?
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 includes a statutory framework for monitoring progress on adaptation. Under this framework, the Scottish Government reports annually to the Scottish Parliament on progress to its current Adaptation Programme. The most recent annual report in the biodiversity duty reporting period was laid in Parliament on 29 May 2020 and included an initial assessment of the impacts of Covid-19 on the policies in the Programme. Statutory independent assessments of the Adaptation Programmes are also undertaken by the UK Committee of the Committee on Climate Change on a regular basis, with the most recent one having been published in 2019.
In terms of planning for the impact of climate change on Scotland's natural environment, we are looking forward to the publication of the next UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, which will help inform the development of the third statutory adaptation programme.
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