Scottish climate change adaptation policy

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Following on from the blog on climate change impacts in Scotland, and the recently published Climate change adaptation programme: progress report for 2023, this post sets out the various periodically released reports to be aware of that relate to climate adaptation policy in Scotland.

Adaptation planning

Firstly, there is the UK Climate Risk Assessment (CCRA) – a five-yearly assessment of the major risks and opportunities from climate change, with contributions from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the Met Office, various public bodies and Universities. CCRAs have been published in 2012, 2017 and 2022.

Adaptation planning is required by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 with a new planning document in the wake of each CCRA. After the 2017 CCRA, the second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP) was released in September 2019 (covering 2019-24). The Scottish Government is also required to publish annual progress reports on the SCAAP with the latest in May this year.

The CCC carry out independent assessments of the SCAAP. Their Assessment released in March 2019 found that the most notable progress had been made with increased marine resilience (the designation of 10% of coastal waters as protected) and in understanding and measuring the risks from flooding. They were most concerned about increases in pests and diseases in Scottish forests, the decline in seabird populations and soil health.

Risks and opportunities

The latest Climate Change Risk Assessment (2022) has a Summary for Scotland which identifies 61 risks and opportunities from climate change in Scotland. Risks include new pests and pathogens affecting agriculture, wildfires and coastal erosion, and the impact of higher temperatures on health and well-being. Of these risks, more action is needed now to address 32 of them, while the urgency scores of 25 have increased since the last assessment. The report also identifies which Scottish Cabinet Secretary is the ‘Risk Owner’ with the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero Energy and Transport, owner, or co-owner, of 34 of the risks.

The Climate Change Committee’s most recent assessment of progress in adapting to climate change in Scotland – Is Scotland climate ready? (2022) – concludes that progress has stalled. It calls for time bound quantitative targets for accountability with adaptation needed to be embedded across all government activity. It emphasised the role of improved monitoring and evaluation, with some changes in climate-related risks currently not sufficiently known or understood.

Adaptation planning documents have also been produced by some organisations across Scotland, including Historic Environment Scotland, while others, such as Transport Scotland and Scottish Water are currently developing their strategies.  

The next Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme is expected by Autumn 2024.

Table: Historical and forthcoming policy documents relating climate change adaptation in Scotland.

Scottish Gov: SCAAP 2024 

Niall Kerr, Senior Researcher, Climate Change and Net Zero