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Scotland's Climate Change Adaptation Framework



How great an effect changes in our climate will have on Scotland is determined by several factors:

  • Exposure: the degree to which Scotland is exposed to change such as increases in annual temperature.
    This Framework will improve our understanding of the consequences of a changing climate and both the challenges and opportunities it presents;
  • Adaptive Capacity: the ability of organisations to identify risks or opportunities and take appropriate action.
    This Framework will equip stakeholders with the skills and tools needed to adapt to changing climate; and
  • Competing pressures: the degree to which organisations are restricted in their attempt to adapt due to competing pressures and constraints.
    This Framework will assist the integration of adaptation into wider public policy and regulation so that it is a help, not a hindrance, to addressing climate change issues. 8

Diagram 3: Model for Adapting to Climate Change in Scotland

Diagram 3: Model for Adapting to Climate Change in Scotland

* Scotland's Climate Change Adaptation Framework will focus on achieving climate change adaptation but opportunities to reduce emissions will also be sought.


Decisions on adaptation should be informed by robust scientific research into the impacts of climate change, vulnerabilities to those impacts and effectiveness of adaptation options. Providing broad distribution and easily accessible information will encourage the involvement of a greater cross-section of society in adaptation decision making.

Supporting the development of climate models

Computer simulation models that produce projections of how our climate may change provide valuable information for more robust development of plans and policies. The UK is one of only a few countries to produce national climate projections. These models incorporate all the aspects of the atmosphere that may influence climate, such as solar energy, natural and man-made emissions and the influence of land mass.

The UK Climate Projections 2009 provide users with unprecedented ability to drill down into more localised projections, showing probabilities of changes down to 25km squares. They are interactive, allowing organisations to run their own weather generation models to get data for their own area over a desired timescale. Organisations can decide for themselves what level of risk they are prepared to bear. The Scottish Government will continue to work with partners such as the UK Climate Impacts Programme ( UKCIP) to develop resources that present more localised information, derived from this modelling. This will enable organisations to prepare for a changing climate in a more tailored way.

Scotland's universities are also playing a world-leading role in modelling climate change and researching mitigation and adaptation strategies. 9

Assessing the risks and opportunities presented by changes in climate

To fully assess the potential risks and opportunities of a changing climate in Scotland, we must not only understand the likelihood and degree of change, we must also understand the consequences of that change and the costs of prevention. The direct and indirect impacts of a changing climate on our environment, economy and society must be better understood as well as how people can be motivated to adapt appropriately.

The Scottish Government will continue to support sector-specific research to understand the risks and opportunities presented by climate change through mechanisms such as the Scottish Government Research Strategy. We are also supporting multi-disciplinary initiatives which draw conclusions from across sectors to better inform our understanding of the complex interplays between sectors and secondary impacts. This will assist in preventing the adaptation actions of one sector having a detrimental effect on other sectors.

One such initiative is the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment ( UKCCRA) which will, when published by January 2012, form a key evidence base for the next programme period of Scotland's Climate Change Adaptation Framework. The UKCCRA will provide an understanding of the likelihood and scale of impacts on Scotland, allowing Government to more effectively target its adaptation response by sector and geographically.

This work will include an economic assessment of adaptation options to those risks highlighted by the UKCCRA. This will assist the Government to ensure effective investment of public funds and to better understand the costs of inaction. Where costs and benefits are difficult to monetise, as is often the case with social and environmental value, the economic assessment will consider alternative metrics that may be more suitable.

As required by the UK Climate Change Act 2008, a full public consultation on the UKCCRA will be held in 2011 and the work will be peer reviewed by the multi-disciplinary Adaptation Sub-Committee of the UK Committee on Climate Change.

Co-ordinating research agendas

A great deal of research is being done by academic, industry and government bodies across Scotland, the UK and beyond. There is much to be gained from improving the knowledge base through a strategic approach to research and participating in partnerships, such as Living with Environmental Change. 10 The Scottish Government will continue to be an active participant and supporter in such initiatives to ensure the value of multi-disciplinary research is recognised and gaps in research needs are filled. It will also be important that research from across sectors is represented in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment. Furthermore, because climate change is a global issue, we will continue to look for opportunities in better co-ordinating research and knowledge transfer with our European and International partners.

Improving dissemination of research and knowledge

An evidence base for adaptation decisions will not solely be derived from commissioning new research. Considerable amounts of valuable existing research and ongoing monitoring is collected by various agencies, private and third sector organisations, which can complement the more conceptual climate change modelling data. Better access to this existing knowledge base would allow organisations to make more informed decisions about adaptation, potentially recognising issues earlier. The Scottish Government will work with partners
to promote a more consistent approach to monitoring, data collection and use.

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership's ( MCCIP) annual Report Card 11 provides an excellent example of disseminating results in a manner specifically targeted at end-users. The Scottish Government will continue to work with partners such as MCCIP, SCCIP and broader sector partners to identify effective channels for dissemination of adaptation research and best practice. Where possible, we will seek to utilise existing communication channels that have shown to be effective in reaching their stakeholder group.

In addition, a number of new virtual communities will be developed to support users of the 2009 UK Climate Projections, facilitated through the SCCIP website.


Climate change is an issue that no government can address alone. Success will depend
on governments leading by example as well as individuals and organisations from across sectors preparing for a changing climate now. We must foster an adaptation approach that incorporates both leadership and guidance while encouraging a grass-roots development of innovative responses.

Communicating a consistent and effective message

Communicating information about impacts and options for adapting is vital for building resilience to change. For many people, climate change is the preserve of scientists and other experts. To create some clarity amongst the confusion of messages about climate change, the Scottish Government is working with partners across the public sector to develop consistent information and advice. Together, we are developing a stock of publicly available guidance, GIS maps 12 and messages to help individuals and organisations adapt. For example, the Scottish Government has increased funding to SCCIP to develop a database of freely available resources such as Scottish maps and messages derived from the UK Climate Projections 2009.

Improved targeting of awareness raising

Awareness raising is required with a greater sense of urgency at every level through improved targeting of specific sectors or groups. Communication of information about adaptation is challenging: information on adaptation must often be tailored for specific audiences, sectors and circumstances. We must communicate with those who plan and make key decisions within organisations as well as the general public. Public support is needed to implement many adaptation activities and this will require an appreciation of the importance of adaptation and potential costs of inaction.

Education on the nature of climate risks and how they can be managed can start at school, as children learn about becoming 'responsible citizens' through the Curriculum for Excellence. 13 However, it cannot stop there. The Scottish Government will seek innovative ways to raise awareness and provide information to all sectors of society, including those who have been less involved in the public debate.

Working with education providers, the third sector and industry bodies, the Government will tailor and distribute information and guidance. The Scottish Government's Climate Change Public Engagement Strategy will contribute to building public confidence by developing a systematic engagement strategy to involve the whole of Scottish society in helping deliver the Government's climate change objectives. The Engagement Strategy is required to be published by the end of 2010.

Providing the right tools for the job

It is not enough to raise awareness of the urgency to adapt to the changes in climate Scotland is facing. Support is required to develop the capacity to use the available evidence base in risk management and decision making processes. High-quality climate information and tools for risk management will help to drive efficient market responses to climate change challenges. 14 However, there cannot be a 'toolkit' for every individual organisation or adaptation question. Organisations hold the greatest expertise on their businesses and local areas and must be encouraged to develop their own solutions. Many user-specific tools are already freely available but remain under utilised across the public and private sectors in Scotland. Some examples of the range of tools currently available to help assess the risks and opportunities related to climate change are presented in Box 2.

The Scottish Government will continue to fund SCCIP as a central hub of free information and access to tools for organisations seeking to adapt in Scotland. Improvements to the SCCIP website will make it easier to locate sector-based information and tools.


The Scottish Government supports a free information and resource hub in Scotland. The Scottish Climate Change Impacts Partnership ( SCCIP) has been established to increase the resilience of Scottish organisations and infrastructure to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the impacts of climate change.

SCCIP endeavours to increase the awareness and preparedness of organisations affected by climate change and, where appropriate, by facilitating their adaptation to the unavoidable consequences of our changing climate. The Partnership's website - www.sccip.org.uk - is the primary source of information and resources for individuals and organisations in Scotland interested in climate change adaptation.


UK Climate Projections 2009

The UK Climate Projections ( UKCP09) were created to be used by people working in all sorts of organisations in the UK. The Projections contain information on observed and future climate change, based on the latest scientific understanding. They can help assess the impacts of climate change on, for example, a habitat, production process or a structure. http://ukcp09.defra.gov.uk/content/view/18/7/

Climate Adaptation Resource for Advisors ( CLARA)

Climate change will have several implications for small business. However, busy managers of small businesses often find it difficult to plan for a future climate which seems so uncertain and far off. This resource is primarily aimed at helping business advisors to support small and medium enterprises prepare for the impacts of climate change. However, the factsheets are also designed to be accessed directly by the business community. http://www.ukcip.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=531&Itemid=547

Local Climate Impact Profile

A Local Climate Impact Profile ( LCLIP) is a resource that Local Authorities can compile so that they better understand their exposure to weather and climate. It is based on evidence of a locality's vulnerability to severe weather events and in particular how these events have affected the local community as well as the authority's assets and capacity to deliver services. Several completed LCLIPS in Scotland showed that risk management, emergency planning and adaptation to climate change were viewed as separate issues. http://www.sccip.org.uk/Projects/Default.aspx?pid=39

Developing skills and sharing best practice

Through the Adaptation Framework, we wish to foster the right conditions to unleash innovative adaptation actions across Scotland. We will need to ensure we have the skills to effectively adapt to climate change. Learning from each other will be an important part of developing adaptation expertise in Scotland. This will encourage skills that are, at present, considered too specialist to be mainstreamed. For example, 'green roof' 15 construction could become mainstreamed knowledge across the construction industry. The Scottish Government supports the development of forums to share best practice and highlight research and guidance needs, such as the sector-specific user communities being developed through SCCIP.


The effectiveness of adaptation policies will be affected by many other policies, making it important that climate change policy is integrated across sectors. Wherever possible, regulation and public policy should assist, rather than hinder, stakeholders to address the issues of climate change and to adapt sustainably.

Providing leadership on climate change adaptation

The Scottish Government must lead by example, integrating adaptation into its development processes. Through the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, policy and corporate instruments,
a risk management and accountability structure has been established to ensure the ongoing integration of climate change adaptation into government. The governance structure to integrate climate change adaptation into the Scottish Government is outlined below.

Diagram 4: Scottish Government Governance of Climate Change Adaptation

Diagram 4: Scottish Government Governance of Climate Change Adaptation

The Climate Change Delivery Board is a forum for senior Government officials to provide oversight and strategic direction across both climate change mitigation and adaptation policy development. In taking forward the Government's climate change objectives, the Delivery Board will provide a mechanism to reduce the risk of conflicts between policy priorities and, where they do arise, to address and resolve them.

Under the strategic direction of the Climate Change Adaptation Framework, various Sector Action Plans will be developed to address the issues specific to that sector. These Plans will be led and developed by Scottish Government sector leads, in consultation with relevant sector stakeholders.

Integrate adaptation into Scottish regulation

In taking forward Sector Action Plans, the Scottish Government will continue to work with stakeholders to identify and address barriers to adaptation in Scottish regulation. For example, the Scottish Government has established greater control for SEPA to adjust water abstractions when water resources are under stress due to low flows or drought in order to protect the water environment. 16

It is expected that the development of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment will also assist the Scottish Government in identifying regulatory barriers to adaptation. Furthermore, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 will address numerous barriers to adaptation action within the public sector, by imposing a legal requirement for all public bodies to exercise their functions in a way best calculated to help deliver the Scottish Government's climate change adaptation objectives. Statutory guidance will be provided to public bodies to help them adapt to climate change and better understand their requirements under this duty.

Integrate adaptation into Scottish public policy

In taking forward Sector Action Plans, the Scottish Government will continue to work with stakeholders to identify and address barriers to adaptation in Scottish policy.

For example, an important element of the approach to integrating adaptation is the consideration of ecosystem services across the broad span of public policy. "Ecosystem services" is a description of the range of benefits that our society and economy enjoy from nature, including resources such as food and timber, protection such as flood management, and cultural services such as recreation. By including a consideration of the impact on ecosystem services in policy making, including the likely impact of climate change on the levels of ecosystem services and the biodiversity that underpins them, we can ensure that we protect the level of benefits that society enjoys from nature. Such an 'ecosystem approach' will be relevant to many of the sectors considered under the Adaptation Framework, with the leading consideration of ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change considered within the Biodiversity Sector Summary.

In addition to addressing barriers to adaptation in existing policy and regulation, the Government is also developing methods to integrate adaptation into future development.

Climate change adaptation tools for policy makers include:

  • Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) - Most public sector plans, programmes and strategies which are likely to have significant environmental effects must be subject to an SEA. In considering the effects, responsible authorities must assess climatic factors, including adaptation implications.
  • Sustainable Development Checklist - In the development of primary legislation, officials use this checklist which requires consideration to be given towards the extent that changes in our climate will impact on the success of the proposal.