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Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme: Progress Report 2023-2024

Fifth annual progress report on "Climate Ready Scotland: Scotland’s Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019 to 2024".

Introduction and context

The Scottish Government is focused on addressing what really matters to the people of Scotland – reducing poverty, delivering growth, helping to tackle climate change, and providing high quality public services. These four key goals are inextricably linked. The fair and equitable transition to a society that is both net zero and well-adapted to our changing climate is not a small effort. It will take all aspects of society to deliver.

Scotland’s climate has already changed. Recent events, including an increase in the number of named storms and confirmation that 2023 was the world’s hottest year on record, are stark reminders that climate change is not a far-off threat, it is a crisis that is here and now. A thriving Scottish economy, society and environment are increasingly reliant on how effectively we respond to the impacts of climate change. As a nation we must adapt.

This fifth annual report to Scottish Parliament provides an assessment of progress under the Scottish Government’s current statutory Adaptation Plan: Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019-2024. This is the final annual report prior to the publication of the new Scottish National Adaptation Plan 2024-2029 (SNAP3), scheduled to be laid in Parliament in Autumn 2024.

Scottish Ministers’ assessment of progress:

“We have taken notable steps forward in planning for adaptation, recognising that preparation and building resilience is always more sustainable that response and recovery. However, we recognise that gaps remain and we must now turn to delivery of SNAP3 following publication in the Autumn to ensure Scotland’s communities, economy and natural environment are supported to thrive in the face of a changing climate.”

How has Scotland’s climate changed?

Scotland is already experiencing a warming trend, shifting rainfall patterns and rising sea levels:

  • Our 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997. The average temperature for the last decade (2014-2023) was 1.02°C warmer than the 1961-1990 average, and the warmest year on record was 2022.
  • There has been an increase in rainfall over Scotland in the past few decades. The annual average rainfall in the last decade (2014-2023) was 10% wetter than the 1961-1990 average, with winters 29% wetter.
  • Mean sea level around the UK has risen by approximately 18.5cm from the start of the 20th century and the rate of sea level rise has increased over the last 30 years.

These changes are impacting how we manage our water and land, how we maintain and develop our national infrastructure, restore our biodiversity, protect against soil degradation, and how health, social care and other essential services are delivered in communities across Scotland. Collectively these impacts are already having significant economic and social repercussions.

Finally, while we know climate change impacts us all, it doesn’t impact us equally. It is important to recognise that the pace and scale of climate impacts vary substantially across Scotland and there are communities that are already particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

How will Scotland’s climate continue to change?

Changes to our climate are driven by global greenhouse gas emissions, which continue to rise substantially. This means those changes we are already experiencing are projected to continue and intensify:

  • Average temperatures will increase across all seasons.
  • Typical summers will be warmer and drier.
  • Typical winters will be milder and wetter.
  • Intense, heavy rainfall events will increase in both winter and summer.
  • Sea levels will rise.
  • There will be reduced frost and snowfall.
  • Weather will remain variable, with increased incidents of storms.

For further information on these changes, see Adaptation Scotland's summary of the UK Climate Projections for Scotland (published January 2021). This resource is intended to help build common understanding on the future climate that Scotland will experience.

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