Climate change homepage

SEPA's position on climate change

We recognise that climate change is the greatest threat to the future of the planet's ecosystems, with significant socio-economic consequences for humankind.

The use of fossil fuels, a growing demand for energy and increased deforestation will escalate emissions of carbon dioxide to potentially irreversible levels. The scientific understanding of global warming continues to improve over time. Scotland has adopted world-leading legislation to address climate change. The planet itself tells us that action is needed. Science, legislation and policy has emerged to deliver this action and Scotland is at the vanguard. We aim to be at the forefront of Scottish efforts.

SEPA's role in addressing climate change

We have a key role in helping Scotland limit and adapt to climate change. We must also adapt to climate change and reduce our own emissions. We cover this in more detail in our pages on the science of climate change; SEPA's role in helping Scotland address climate change; and its likely impacts on Scotland. Our work must support wider Scottish, UK, European and international efforts to address the man-made impacts of climate change.

SEPA's climate change vision

Our vision says that:

'SEPA will do everything in its power to help Scotland address climate change to ensure Scotland's environment, economy and communities flourish.'

Our climate challenge – our climate change plan for 2014–2018

Published in March 2014, Our climate challenge sets out our vision for climate change for the next five years. The four strategic themes we are focusing on are:

  • Acting as a key climate change leader and adviser.
  • Helping Scotland to adapt.
  • Working with Scottish business.
  • Being an exemplar and educator.

The plan is ambitious and outward facing, contributing to wider Scottish efforts on climate change. It aims to build on and add value to our scientific knowledge and expertise – and our function as a regulator. We realise it is still important that we improve our own performance and set an example for others. Our plan also acknowledges the importance of working with partners and demonstrates where we do this.

The outcomes under each of the four themes tell us where we want to be by the end of 2018. By setting a direction for the agency, this shows us where we expect to invest time and effort, building climate change work into our annual business plans and providing resources to match needs. 

The delivery plan

To support Our climate challenge, we will maintain a delivery plan. Year by year to 2018 we are taking action to meet the ambitions of the plan. New actions will come forward in response to new issues and challenges as these arise.

The delivery plan is currently in preparation as part of the SEPA business planning process and a summary will be available shortly.

How Our climate challenge supports Scottish efforts

We have an important role in supporting the Scottish Government's world-leading legislation on climate change. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 places duties on the public sector to deliver progress on climate change in terms of mitigation – cutting Scotland's emissions; adaptation – reducing the impacts of climate change on Scotland; and acting sustainability.

Two key Scottish Government documents spell out how we can contribute to these ambitions. These are Low Carbon Scotland - Meeting our Emissions Reduction Targets 2013-2027 – the Second Report on Proposals and Policies and Climate Ready Scotland: Scotland's climate change adaptation programme.

Guidance issued on the Act identifies the Agency as an influential 'major player' and sets out how we should report on the duties. Since 2011–2012 we have published an annual report on how we are delivering on these duties.

The latest annual report sets out action taken in 2012–2013. This report, which was independently verified, records the large amount of climate change work being done.

The report covers our leadership role; our management arrangements for acting on climate change; reductions of our own direct greenhouse gas emissions; actions to assess the risks of climate change impacts; and our work with others on adapting to the impacts of climate change.

We also report on our work with partners and our work to raise awareness and to engage with businesses and the broader community.

Our annual statements will identify actions we are taking to meet our strategic themes with our plan to help achieve the Scottish Government's ambitions.

Our partnerships

We recognise the value of working with partners and stakeholders: adding value, securing multiple benefits from resources invested and achieving shared objectives. Partnerships hold the key to successfully delivering our ambitions; we will continue to develop and extend our partnership working.

We have a leading role in Scottish climate change partnerships. Specifically, our Chief Executive is a member of the Scottish Government Climate Change Delivery Board, which monitors progress in Scotland. We are members of the Public Sector Climate Leaders' Forum and our Chairman is a 'climate change champion' in the Scottish Government's champions' network. SEPA also participates in the Climate Leaders' Officer Group. Working with businesses, we continue to support the 2020 Climate Group.

This is particularly the case with our four agency partnership. SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Forestry Commission Scotland and Historic Scotland are all government funded organisations with responsibilities for different aspects of Scotland's environment and heritage. We continue to work together and have agreed a joint statement on climate change.