The Scottish Government needs to develop clearer action plans for adapting to climate change, says CCC

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 27 September 2016 in News

Committee on Climate Change says a lack of evidence makes it difficult to assess Scotland’s vulnerability to climate impacts

Climate change - credit: PA

The Scottish Government needs to develop clearer action plans for adapting to the effects of climate change, according to a new report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

The CCC found that the Scottish Government has taken steps to mitigate climate change, but a lack of evidence makes it difficult to assess whether Scotland’s vulnerability to climate impacts is increasing, remaining constant, or decreasing.

In a new report, the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) of the CCC warns that a lack of data is particularly problematic in measuring the effect of climate change on Scotland’s infrastructure, and risks to health and wellbeing.


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It found very little information is collected across the health and business sectors to help assess risks.

The CCC reports that climate change is already affecting Scotland, with the ASC warning that increases in average temperatures, sea level and annual rainfall have all been observed.

It recommended Scotland should state more clearly what its policies for adapting to climate change are and monitor their implementation.

The report, ‘Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme – an independent assessment’, found that although steps are being taken to manage the risks from extreme weather to people and the health and social care system, the future effects of heat on health and wellbeing in Scotland have not been studied.

It found that 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.

The ASC said that although significant action had been taken to improve Scotland’s infrastructure in the face of more extreme weather, existing datasets are insufficient to judge whether enough progress has being made.

The report describes the first Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme as a “positive start”, but warns it did not address around a third of the climate change risks and opportunities identified for Scotland in the first UK Climate Change Risk Assessment. 

It said unaddressed risks included potential impacts on priority natural habitats due to coastal erosion, biodiversity risks in warmer rivers, lochs and other freshwater bodies, and the potential for disruption to telecoms and other digital infrastructure.

It said the Scottish Government should list the specific actions it will take to achieve each climate change adaptation objective.

The report found current SCCAP objectives “are phrased in ways that make it difficult to measure whether they are being achieved”.

Lord Krebs, Chairman of the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the CCC, 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.”

The SNP’s Programme for Government sets out plans to reduce emissions by more than 50 per cent by 2020.

Scottish Government figures show Scotland’s 2014 emission levels were 45.8 per cent lower than in 1990.

Graeme Dey MSP, convener of Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, said: “Whilst we’re making good progress in tackling climate change, its impacts are being experienced in communities across Scotland.

“Today’s report sets out some of the good work taking place to prepare Scotland for the impacts of climate change. However, the CCC is clear that more work is needed to monitor and assess the progress being made in this area.”

The report says: “Considered in isolation, milder average winters will reduce the burden of cold weather on people, infrastructure and the health and social care system. However, due to the growing, ageing population the number of premature deaths in cold weather is not expected to fall significantly. More needs to be done to improve the performance of Scotland’s housing stock so that peoples’ health and wellbeing is protected in cold winters as well as in hotter summers.”

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