APRS Resources

Adaptation Plan Consultation

This is the APRS response to the consultation on the Scottish Government’s Adaptation Plan, April 2024.

In this response we focus on the role of green belts, national parks, nature-based solutions, and landscape scale solutions.

1. What do you think the current effects of climate change are on people in Scotland?

Over recent years, weather extremes have become more exacerbated and will continue to do so in the future. The intense rainfall we have experienced over the past year has placed extreme pressure on our infrastructure, damaged property, and impacted food and fibre production. Such extreme weather events will intensify in the future, so both mitigation of the climate crisis and adaptation to its impacts are critical. 

5. What action(s) do you think the Scottish Government should prioritise in order to build greater resilience to the impacts of climate change?

The Scottish Government has tentatively recognised the role of green belts in climate adaptation eg the third policy outcome of the Fourth National Planning Framework’s (NPF4’s) Green Belt policy (policy 8) is that “Nature networks are supported and land is managed to help tackle climate change”. However, the Adaption Plan should indicate the improved management required and set targets for the adaptive management of green belt land (eg carbon sequestration and storage in relatively undisturbed , cooling effect of green and wooded areas, water management, public access to green space near urban centres)

Climate change is expected to bring wetter winters and more extreme rainfall events in Scotland. Particularly in cases where native woodland and habitats are restored, green belts can help to absorb and intercept heavy rainfall, lessening the effects on nearby urban areas. Natural landscapes can slow the flow of water during periods of heavy rain, reducing strain on storm drains and rivers. Reckless development on green belts can remove significant potential for this rainfall absorption by the land and must be discouraged. 

Green belts can also have a cooling function during periods of high temperatures, reducing heat bubble effects on urban areas. A study of the Greater Manchester green belt found that undeveloped green belt areas around the city can contribute to cooling urban areas [1]. 

They should also prioritise nature-based flood mitigation, such as SUDS, river and peatland restoration, as opposed to relying solely on grey flood defences. Where possible, river restoration should take a catchment-based approach, engaging with organisations and local communities to build resilience of our landscapes to flooding. Communities should be effectively informed of the importance of such projects and empowered to be part of these processes. 

Both green belt protection and nature-based solutions also provide several other benefits in addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis, such as habitat creation and carbon sequestration. 

[1] Gill, S; Handley, J; Ennos, R; and Nolan, P: ‘Planning for Green Infrastructure: Adapting to Climate Change’, in Davoudi, S et al (ed): Planning for Climate Change – Strategies for Mitigation and Adaptation for Spatial Planners, Earthscan 2009, p.251-2.

6. Which of the following actions should the Scottish Government prioritise? Please check all that apply.

i. More trees and green spaces in built-up places for flood resilience and cooling

ii. More joined up natural habitats (“nature networks”)

iii. Managing pests and diseases which will be more prevalent with climate change

iv. Restoring forests and peatland

v. Reinforcing natural coastal barriers such as dunes

vi. Other

These are all much needed actions, and none take priority over another. It is important to tailor actions to local contexts, needs, and ecosystems. A holistic, landscape scale approach should be central to adaptation plans to ensure these actions complement each other. This approach will contribute to adaptation better than focusing solely on one single approach. Grants and funding for nature recovery should reflect this. 

7. When you consider your local natural space e.g. park, canal, woodland or beach, what would you like to see improved in terms of blue and green space in your local area?

Connectivity should be a key measure of the quality of local natural space, in terms of the ability of species to move between these areas and also for accessibility for people. As mentioned in Q5, green belts have huge benefits for adapting to the impacts of the climate crisis, while also providing a range of benefits for local communities. For many people in urban and semi-urban areas, green belts are a means of access to the countryside and a valuable recreational amenity. However, these are under constant threat from unsustainable development. The multitude of benefits of green and natural spaces for both climate mitigation and adaptation must be better recognised, and this recognition must translate to better protections. 

In addition, the role of National Parks in adapting to climate change should be recognised. They are well placed to make a significant contribution to adapting to the effects of climate change locally, through nature-based solutions to flood management, water conservation, habitat restoration (particularly peatland restoration), and farming practices which are sustainable and resilient in the face of a changing climate. National Parks also provide larger, unfragmented areas where landscape scale approaches to adaptation and mitigation measures, involving collaboration amongst a host of stakeholders, are well suited. 

National Parks, as part of their leadership role on climate, should report on and publicise how they are adapting to climate change and what more needs to be done. This should focus on both the operation of the National Park Authority and work supporting communities and Partners too. It should also highlight how this work can be translated to other areas of Scotland. 

Across the UK, National Parks are used to pilot new ideas and projects, so there are opportunities to promote innovative projects in climate change adaptation. They can also provide better protected wildlife habitats, vital to sustaining resilient ecosystems and sequestering carbon. National Parks should be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of nature-based adaptation solutions at scale, in a way that helps create a just transition locally and nationally. 

9. In what way(s) could the plan help different groups across Scotland and/or its regions to collaborate on climate adaptation?

Effective and considered planning is critical in adapting Scotland to the impacts of climate change. This planning must draw from local and expert knowledge, and thus requires thorough engagement with the local community, key agencies and relevant public and third sector organisations. It must also be plan-led, with proposals for adaptation measures set out in Local Development Plans properly followed through. However, a lack of capacity and resource is a huge barrier to this, with research by the RTPI showing that planning departments of local authorities have been hard hit by budget cuts. Significant investment in local authority planning capacity is needed to enable them to deliver meaningful activity on adaptation. 

In adapting to the effects of climate change, a landscape scale approach should be central. This would require working across different actors, such as communities, land managers, local authorities etc. to develop large scale nature-based solutions and nature restoration. This approach would contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, while supporting biodiversity and habitat creation alongside local job creation. This should take a spatial land-use planning approach, taking into account local needs and contexts, so measures are joined up and effective. 

A joined-up, mutli-stakeholder approach should be central to this. An EEA study of flood mitigation and coastal resilience found that landscape scale initiatives have five key features: “institutions enabling multi-stakeholder and multi-sector coordination across the landscape; a structured process for multi-sector landscape assessment, goal-setting and planning; farm and landscape interventions that are designed for synergies; public policies and programs aligned to support integrated adaptation and development; and finance mobilized for a coordinated landscape investment portfolio”. 

The Plan should also reference the relevant policies of NPF4, particularly Policy 2 and Policy 3. Effectively enacting these policies requires collaboration between local authorities, the Scottish Government, local communities, public bodies and more. 

10. Scotland’s net zero targets are part of global efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. At the same time, the Climate Change Committee’s advice is to adapt now to a minimum global temperature rise of between 1.5 and 2°C for the period 2050 – 2100, and to consider the risks of up to a 4°C warming scenario. Should the Scottish Government adopt the Climate Change Committee’s advice to “adapt to 2°C and assess the risks for 4°C”?

Strongly Agree / Agree / Don’t know / Disagree / Strongly Disagree

Please share detail on your answer:

Strongly agree – Analysis by the James Hutton Institute released last December found that Scotland’s climate is changing faster than was previously predicted. https://www.hutton.ac.uk/news/scotland%E2%80%99s-climate-changing-faster-predicted

All climate change adaptation and mitigation measures should be done with a recognition of the other ecological crises we face, such as biodiversity loss and pollution. It is important to both mitigate climate change while adapting to its effects through nature-based solutions. For example, the National Flood Resilience Strategy should focus on nature-based solutions, such as river and wetland restoration, rather than purely grey infrastructure. This will also have a greater benefit for biodiversity and habitat resilience. These should be promoted in planning policy and local authorities should be informed of their benefits and resourced to implement such solutions in their areas. This should also highlight the role of green belts in building flood resilience. 

11. Some decisions, for example those in relation to long-term planning or infrastructure investment, may require greater consideration of future climate conditions. Would further guidance on the appropriate future climate scenario(s) to consider when you (or your organisation) are making plans and investment decisions be useful?

Y / N

Yes

12. If yes, what sort of information or advice would be useful for you or your organisation when considering future climate scenarios in long-term planning or investments?

The link between Local Development Plans and adaptation should be made clear, allowing communities and organisations to be informed of current and future adaptation measures. The responsibilities of local authorities and the role of development plans in adaptation to climate change should be made clear. 

14. The Climate Change Committee suggests more Scottish businesses should be assessing and responding to climate risks. What, if any, are the barriers to businesses accessing advice and support on climate risks?

Planning departments of local authorities and public bodies are often constrained by a lack of resources and capacity. This can be a barrier to accessing site-specific and place based information on climate risks, as well as building up a repository of information, both scientific and local, of local climate risks. Developers should also be required to assess the climate risks of an area, receive independent advice on this, and act accordingly. 

In addition, there is scope to develop strategic approaches to Adaptation through National and Regional Land Use Strategies. These could be required to better consider land in terms of adaptation and link adaptation strategies to the planning system and planning decisions more effectively. 

20. How could the Scottish Government support communities impacted by climate change across the world?

Scotland currently has extremely high rates of consumption driven by our linear economic system. Much of what we consume is extracted and produced outwith Scotland, driving up emissions elsewhere. 2023 data shows that roughly 100 tonnes of Scottish waste is shipped overseas each month, essentially exporting our global waste impacts elsewhere. Reducing our internal levels of consumption is critical to supporting communities across the world. APRS proposals for reducing some of this consumption is outlined here: https://aprs.scot/news/our-circular-economy-asks-to-the-scottish-government/

27. What, if any, measures could be taken to strengthen any positive impacts or lessen any negative impacts in this respect?

Lower-income households are already at increased risk from the impacts of climate change. Measures to increase climate resilience should aim to reduce the social and economic disadvantages experienced in Scotland.

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