Action underway to prepare for climate change in Scotland but extent of progress hard to assess

Climate change is already affecting Scotland. Increases in average temperatures, sea level and annual rainfall have all been observed.

Steps are being taken to prepare for climate change, but a lack of evidence is making it difficult to judge whether Scotland’s vulnerability to climate impacts is increasing, remaining constant, or decreasing, the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says today. The ASC’s main recommendation is that Scotland should state more clearly what its policies for adapting to climate change are and monitor their implementation.

The ASC’s new statutory report, ‘Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme – an independent assessment’, is its first to the Scottish Parliament. It provides an interim evaluation of the progress being made to prepare for climate change, two years after the Scottish Government published its inaugural Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP) in 2014.

In those areas where the Adaptation Sub-Committee was able to assess progress, it finds that a range of adaptation policies and plans are now in place and that actions are on track. Specifically, the report shows that:

  • Natural environment: Ambitious plans are in place to protect Scotland’s natural environment from the impacts of climate change but there is more to do to make sure these ambitions are realised. A number of important species remain in decline due to existing pressures on the natural environment and climate change will exacerbate these. One third of deep peat soils in Scotland are showing signs of erosion and an estimated 16% are completely bare of any peat-forming vegetation.
  • Buildings and infrastructure networks: Significant action has been taken in recent years to improve flood protection for communities and steps have been taken to improve the resilience of Scotland’s infrastructure in severe weather. However, existing datasets are insufficient to judge whether enough progress is being made to counter the impacts of climate change.
  • Society: Steps are being taken to manage the risks from extreme weather to people and the health and social care system. However, the future effects of heat on health and wellbeing in Scotland have not been studied and there has been little attempt to understand what support business might need to take advantages of the opportunities that may arise as a result of climate change.

Lord Krebs, Chairman of the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “Climate change is already affecting Scotland. Average temperatures and sea-levels are rising, and rainfall totals are increasing. Further changes are in evitable in the coming decades. A lot of action is underway to prepare for the impacts of climate change but it’s not clear what’s being achieved and whether risks are being adequately managed. The Scottish Government now needs to develop clearer action plans, and better ways to monitor and review progress, to ensure Scotland is ready for the climate-related challenges ahead.”



  • For further information or to arrange an interview with Lord Krebs, ASC Chairman, or Matthew Bell, CCC Chief Executive, please contact CCC Communications Manager, Jo Barrett [email protected], 0207 591 6262 or 07940 703911.
  • The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is the independent statutory body established under the Climate Change Act (2008) to advise the UK and devolved governments on setting carbon budgets, and to report to the UK and devolved parliaments on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Change Act also established the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) of the CCC to provide advice to the UK and devolved governments on climate change risks and opportunities, and to report to the UK and Scottish parliaments on progress being made by UK and Scottish National Adaptation Programmes.
  • The Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP) was published in May 2014. The Scottish Government requested the ASC, in 2014, to carry out an independent, interim assessment of the SCCAP. The ASC’s assessment is being presented to Scottish Parliament pursuant to section 56(2) of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.
  • The next SCCAP is expected in 2019. The ASC’s report shows that the second SCCAP could be improved by including timescales for actions to be completed and clearer ownership of objectives to ensure they are achieved. More data collection is also required to help monitor risks, assess progress in implementation of policies, and to inform future adaptation decisions.
  • Average temperatures in Scotland have increased in line with global trends, with average temperatures around 1°C higher than they were a century ago. Annual rainfall over Scotland has increased since the 1970s, to a level 13% above the average for the early decades of the 20th Long-term monitoring of sea-level at stations around the UK including Aberdeen shows the mean sea-level for 2006-2008 was more than 100mm higher than during the 1920s.