Scotland needs to 'up its game' on tackling climate change, say experts

The Scottish Government has been urged to take greater action to tackle the issue.

Scotland needs to ‘up its game’ on tackling climate change, according to expert report iStock

Scotland needs to “up its game” on tackling climate change, according to expert advisers.

A new report published by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) warns that not enough is being done to protect the country against rising temperatures and sea levels.

The CCC is a group comprised of experts who provide the UK Government with independent advice on the climate crisis.

In their report, titled; ‘Is Scotland Climate Ready?’, they criticised the Scottish Government for “stalling” in taking action to adapt to critical impacts such as wetter winters and rising sea levels.

They warned that this could pose risks to people, infrastructure and businesses, and stated that ports, telecoms, airports, digital and ICT infrastructure all face “substantial climate risks”.

The chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, Baroness Brown, said that “action is not happening at the scale or pace required” and that Scotland needs to “up its game”.

A five-year programme to prepare Scotland for future climate changes has already been set out by the Scottish Government, but the CCC report said that “much more needs to be done”.

It also noted that there here are no measurable targets for reducing water demand in industry, despite risks of future droughts, and that rates of peatland restoration are falling well short of Scottish Government targets.

The report also highlighted that with increasing temperatures, there are no plans for dealing with climate change-induced increases in “vector-borne” diseases, such as Lyme disease, despite notable increases in cases in recent years.

And it made recommendations that the Scottish Government should improve its monitoring and evaluation systems to better assess future climate-related risks.

It also called for ministers to look at numerous local-level initiatives that can form a blueprint for a stronger approach on how to adapt to extreme weather changes.

Baroness Brown added: “Without a renewed sense of urgency, the significant changes we are already seeing in Scotland today will have impacts on all areas of Scottish society and nature in the years to come.

“Scotland needs to up its game by kickstarting delivery; introducing clear, measurable targets; improving monitoring and evaluation of climate risks, and ensuring greater accountability for Government – it has some examples of good practice to build on.”

Scotland’s net zero, energy and transport secretary Michael Matheson indicated that “real progress” is being made towards a just transition towards net zero.

“The Scottish Government welcomes independent scrutiny of our response to the global climate emergency and asked the Climate Change Committee to prepare this report on our approach to adaptation,” he said.

“Preparing for the impacts of climate change which are already locked in forms a key part of a just transition to net-zero and we are making real progress.

“That includes an extra £150m for flood risk management and £12m for coastal change adaptation over the course of this parliament.

“We are ensuring our transport network is prepared for the impacts of climate change, including investment of £60m to support climate adaptation and resilience of our trunk roads. 

“We are also supporting resilience internationally by trebling our world-first Climate Justice Fund.”

Matheson acknowledged that “more needs to be done”, despite the progress made so far.

“We are pleased that the Committee supports our vision for a climate resilient Scotland,” he continued.

“However, we accept that more needs to be done. This is a global challenge and we are not alone in needing to accelerate progress.

““We will continue to deliver the 170 policies and proposals in our current Adaptation Programme and also look for additional actions we can take to address the highest priority areas identified by the Committee.”

Scottish Conservative net zero, energy and transport spokesperson Liam Kerr hit out at the SNP as he said that the country is “miles behind” where it should be.

“This is a classic case of SNP spin failing to live up to reality,” said Kerr.

“For all the SNP’s lofty rhetoric on the environment – and Nicola Sturgeon’s grandstanding at COP26 – Scotland is miles behind where we should be.

“The nationalists have been in charge of this brief for almost 15 years – the multiple failures are on them.

“Not only have we missed green target after green target under this government, but the SNP has failed to prepare for the immediate effects of climate change close to home. 

“In just the last few months, we have seen the damage and devastation caused by severe winter storms and the SNP’s belated response – this cannot be allowed to continue.”

Scottish Labour’s net zero, energy and transport spokesman Colin Smyth accused the SNP of “hollow rhetoric and gesture politics” during their time in government.

“This is a damning indictment of the SNP-Green government’s atrocious record on the environment,” he said.

“After 15 years the SNP have delivered an abundance of hollow rhetoric and gesture politics – but speeches and photo ops won’t tackle the climate and nature emergency. 

“The Greens are no longer worthy of the name, now that they’ve abandoned the last of their principles to prop up this failing government. 

“There is no time to waste – we need a real plan now to reach net zero, deliver a jobs-first transition, and build a greener Scotland.”

More on