Is Scotland climate ready? The conclusion of the Climate Change Committee’s recent report asking this question was resounding: no, not yet.

The Committee’s report, presented to the Scottish Parliament in March, offers an independent assessment of Scotland’s progress in adapting to the impacts of climate change. And whilst the Committee welcomed the vision for a climate resilient nation set out in the Scottish Government’s second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP2), it found that overall, progress in delivering adaptation has stalled. Put simply, the actions currently being taken across our society do not match the scale and urgency of the climate challenge we face.

In particular, the Committee’s report highlighted the need to translate the vision and qualitative outcomes set out in SCCAP2 into clear, time-bound and quantifiable targets, and to establish an effective monitoring and evaluation programme. Without this framework, changes in climate risks, and the effectiveness of adaptation actions, will remain difficult to assess.

The Committee found that the pace of adaptation action has stagnated across most sectors, with examples including the lack of planning to adapt farmland to a changing climate, poor consideration of heat risk in housing and building strategies, and no overarching plans to prepare for supply chain disruption. However, the report also highlights the opportunities to accelerate Scotland’s adaptation response by learning from and scaling up the many local-level successes, and by aligning climate resilience with the principles of a just transition.

Priorities for action

At Sniffer, helping communities, organisations and businesses across Scotland to adapt is a key part of achieving our vision of a flourishing and fairer future for all in a changing climate. We were pleased to see that the Climate Change Committee highlighted several projects that we are helping to deliver as examples of good practice. This included the Adaptation Capability Framework, the Glasgow City Region Climate Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan, led by Climate Ready Clyde, and the work of the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership, supported by Adaptation Scotland.

However, it’s clear that these examples of progress are still a long way from adding up to the transformational, systems-level change we need for Scotland to become truly climate ready. We aim to be part of the movement to achieve this change, so what learning are we, as Sniffer, taking from the Climate Change Committee’s report to inform our current and future work?

First, as highlighted by the Committee’s accompanying briefing on the Just Transition and Climate Change Adaptation, climate resilience must be just resilience. This means adapting to climate change in a fair way, where the benefits are felt across the whole of society, prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable. Fairness is a core value for Sniffer, and we will continue to prioritise just resilience, as exemplified in our current work to develop the Place Standard Tool with a climate lens, and our contribution to the European Environment Agency’s work on just transition in the context of adaptation.

Second, the report highlights the need to learn from and scale up the examples of good local adaptation action already happening across Scotland’s cities, regions and communities. Having played a key role in many of these place-based successes, Sniffer is well placed to help understand what has made these initiatives successful and how they might be replicated, building on our existing work through Adaptation Scotland and the TalX Learning Exchange programme.

Third, there is a clear need to develop and share our thinking on best practice for monitoring and evaluation of climate adaptation. This builds on existing Adaptation Scotland guidance, and emerging work through Climate Ready Clyde to monitor progress against the stretch targets in the Glasgow City Region Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan. This could include learning from international best practice, for example through the Race to Resilience programme, and connecting with the latest academic research.

And finally, it is important to reflect on what is beyond the scope of the Climate Change Committee’s assessment. With its focus on Government action, the report doesn’t go into detail about the important role of communities and civil society in building climate resilience, especially at the local scale. Likewise, whilst land use and policy figure extensively, the report doesn’t consider the deeper issue of land ownership in Scotland, and how this shapes and potentially limits our adaptation response. These are questions that we are keen to explore further in our emerging work.

A step change in ambition

Is Scotland Climate Ready? could not be clearer that a step change in climate adaptation action is needed across the country, and the time to raise our collective ambition is now. Importantly, this should not happen in isolation from wider social, economic and environmental issues, but be part of a wider systems change towards a flourishing and fairer future for all. At Sniffer, we are determined to play our part in tackling this challenge, and look forward to collaborating with new and existing partners to make this vision a reality.