Stick men in conversation around a table.

Response to the Climate Change Adaptation Plan Consultation. 

Response to the Climate Change Adaptation Plan Consultation. 

  

April 2024 

  

Established by the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003, the Commissioner is responsible for promoting and safeguarding the rights of all children and young people in Scotland, giving particular attention to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The Commissioner has powers to review law, policy and practice and to take action to promote and protect rights. The Commissioner is fully independent of the Scottish Government.

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

“Climate change is a horrible thing that has happened to our world.” (Child, CYPCS Strategic Plan consultation response)

Many children and young people are concerned about the current and potential future effects of climate change in Scotland and around the world.

During our strategic plan consultation this year, we heard from children and young people from across Scotland on a wide range of issues, including climate change. We have consulted with our Young Advisors on the combined climate and nature crisis, both for this consultation and on the Biodiversity Strategy.[1]

There are several effects and concerns that are repeatedly raised by the children and young people we work with.

‘Climate change is really important. It’s pointless working on everything ese if the planet is not going to be liveable’ (Child, CYPCS Strategic Plan consultation response)

The impact on physical health is of great concern. The World Health Organisation states that climate change presents a ‘fundamental threat to human health’[2], children and young people are aware of this and describe to us their worries that climate change will have on their ability to access clean air and water alongside the availability of healthy and nutritious food.  We know that climate change exacerbates child health inequalities,[3] children are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution including an increase in asthma, poorer lung function and negative impact on their growth and development. They are more vulnerable to extreme weather such as heat waves and flooding. An impact of climate change includes rising energy costs meaning, families are struggling to heat their homes. Children, especially infants, are more susceptible to the effects of mould in homes.[4]

Climate change is having an impact on the mental health of children and young people, climate anxiety is something we regularly hear about.

‘Sometimes I get quite sad because it’s overwhelming’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

We still care but it makes us anxious and we give up trying(Child, CYPCS Strategic Plan consultation response)

Some children report to us that they feel disempowered and burnt out.  They feel they have made their voices heard but those in power have not acted.

A recent survey by Young Scot has shown that climate change is one of the top issues worrying young people today.[5]

Declining biodiversity is a concern that has been raised by some children, especially concerned about the extinction of animals. They worry about a ‘world with no nature’.

‘People need to stop littering because they are hurting animals.(Child, CYPCS Strategic Plan consultation response)

‘There’s not as much wildlife in parks. My Gran says she has seen a decrease of birds in the park. Birds are so important to the ecosystem.’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

Our Young Advisors were concerned about the evidence presented in the State of Nature report, that Scottish wildlife has declined by 15% since 1994 and 1 in 9 native species are threatened with extinction.[6] They wanted more done to tackle this.

Many of Scotland’s unique ecosystems are at risk. A recent study found that only 56% of Scotland’s biodiversity remains intact. On the Biodiversity Intactness Index we rank in the bottom 25% (240 countries are contained on the index)[7]. This should put us on notice that more urgently needs to be done on a domestic level to prevent further loss. There are very real threats to nature and climate caused by practices taking place in Scotland this includes the pollution of rivers by unsustainable farming practice or the release of sewage.[8]

The lack of access to green and blue spaces is another factor that has been highlighted. Some children and young people who lived in rural areas were concerned about the effects that pheasant shooting has on the environment and the loss of species like the red squirrel. Those in urban areas were dismayed about the lack of green spaces, the fact they couldn’t hear the birds sing or see bees in the gardens.

‘Beaches can have gross garbage in it if you’re swimming.’ (Child, CYPCS Strategic Plan consultation response)

‘There’s a lack of proper green spaces children have access to. There’s always children wanting more but a lack of quality spaces, well maintained spaces. It would be really beneficial for children to experience nature, why it’s important, how we look after it. Some children and young people don’t have a well-developed knowledge.’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

‘When I was younger I played in the fields and hill. Now it’s all housing. It was only 5 or 6 years ago. How much natural world are we going to have left?’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

The effects that climate change has on the weather and more drastic weather conditions has also been raised alongside the threat this can cause to health or damage to homes or natural spaces. This can be from flooding, wild fires, heat waves or changes to the seasons. We have heard concerns over melting ice caps and rising sea levels. Some talk of the global impact of things like deforestation or oil spills.

When there is extreme weather I think about it more but try to forget’(Child, CYPCS Strategic Plan consultation response)

‘The weather is always changing. It switches. It keeps switching. It doesn’t seem right.’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

‘I’ve noticed the weather conditions have been leaning towards the more drastic.’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

‘In the winter sometimes there’s no snow. Sometimes they put artificial snow on their slopes.’ (CYPCS Young Advisor – in reference to Aviemore).

There are some particular and disproportionate impacts that climate change may bring to children, young people and their families who are experiencing poverty. There are rising food prices after food production is affected by weather disruption.[9] If changes to the weather become more severe – whether this is more extremes in temperature or damage from flood or wind damage – the costs of adapting will be much harder to met to these families. We recently wrote about this in our response to the proposed Heat in Buildings Bill Consultation.[10]

Whilst we are concerned with the effects of climate change in Scotland, children and young people often speak to us about the global impact of climate change. Scotland has to be conscious not only of the damage that is done to our own environment here in Scotland but the impact we have on a wider scale. We cannot simply ‘outsource’ our emissions, or waste to other countries or rely on taking resources from them. We cannot as a society benefit from acts of ecocide in other countries.

  • The next Scottish National Adaptation Plan will cover the period of September 2024 to 2029. What effects, if any, do you expect climate change will have on people in Scotland over the next five years?

The above question outlines the concerns both current and future, there is of course the concern surrounding the impact that these occurrences will have if they continue to increase in severity and communities are repeatedly impacted.

  • What actions, if any, would you be willing and able to take to adapt to climate change? You may wish to consider the action you could take a) in your community and b) around your home and/or business.

‘It’s frustrating we change our lifestyles but it’s discouraging, It’s caused by big companies – not by average people’(Child, CYPCS Strategic Plan consultation response)

‘I worry about climate change and how everyone says to do something, but they don’t let us’ (Child, CYPCS Strategic Plan consultation response)

Children and young people regularly demonstrate that they are willing to make personal changes – we have been inspired by some of the climate related activities we have seen in schools – clothing swaps, eco-clubs, school gardens. Many young people are involved in nature-based activities, some simply to enjoy a connection to nature or others to actively care for this such as through the Scouts, Woodcraft Folk or the Junior Rangers Project.

There are many children and young people taking personal actions where they can and demonstrating knowledge and care on issues like fast fashion, recycling, and the circular economy.[11]

A great deal of responsibility is placed on children and young people to make personal changes, sometimes even when adults around them seem unwilling to make changes themselves. Personal changes are only one part of the process and a lot of the changes that need to happen are at a more systemic level by governments or industries.

The power to change things and reduce emissions lies with governments and industries. Those who make, or have made, the most emissions need to bear the most responsibility.

  • What factor(s), if any, would prevent you from taking action to adapt to climate change and become more climate-resilient?

There are several barriers that would prevent children and young people adapting to climate change.

As outlined above, children and young people are particularly susceptible to physical and mental health related issues because of climate change.

Alongside this, they have limited political power, they cannot vote for parties that would introduce green policies. There is a perception amongst some children that because their votes are not counted, political parties will not aim their policies at them as a group. 

Alongside this they lack autonomy and decision-making power in their own homes and communities. They cannot decide on whether the family home will change to a ‘clean heating system’ or have a compost bin. They cannot control what happens in community spaces or how councils will spend their budgets.

The lack of education on climate change is something which children and young people frequently talk to us about. Whilst there is a Learning for Sustainability Plan[12] more should be done to ensure its implementation.

Children and young people clearly want to learn more about environmental issues, including biodiversity loss and what they can do to contribute to improving this.  Our Young Advisors wanted young people to be involved in decisions that were made on these issues and highlighted that it’s ‘our future land’. They felt they needed more information to be able to do this;

“There was not enough education provided so I went out and researched it, I didn’t get taught in school” (CYPCS Young Advisor).

They said that PSE could play a major role, teaching about social responsibility. They reflected that if you take higher level biology or geography then the subject will be covered but often this is not in a context applicable to Scotland, it might highlight species and habitat loss in other countries. In these subjects, things are treated as facts to learn for exams and they comment that it is hard to share opinions on this in class. They want more education on what they can do in everyday life – ‘teach us how we can help’.

There have been some good examples of projects which aim to educate and involve children and young people. Nature Scot have introduced projects like the Learning in Local Greenspace project[13] which was shown to nearly double the number of pupils who felt connected with nature. They have also introducedScotland’s Junior Rangers – Junior Rangers gives 11-18 year olds the opportunity to look after the countryside and environment.

There is a lack of participation and engagement of children and young people in climate focused areas of policy and law. If the government and policy makers do not include children and young people and listen to their voices, then they cannot be properly part of the solutions. As stated by one Scottish Youth Parliament Member;

‘When young people are part of the conversation, they ensure policies and targets are ambitious and hold decision makers to account. But it is also a critical part of building climate solutions. By involving young people in decision-making on climate in a meaningful way, you gain: 

  • Fresh ideas and perspectives on climate solutions,
  • Future leaders to tackle the challenges we will inherit, 
  • And the support of a key group who will have to make sustainable personal choices if Scotland is going to tackle the climate emergency.’[14] 

For some groups of children there will be additional and intersecting barriers to their ability to adapt for climate change such as; disabled children, those experiencing poverty and children living in rural or island communities.

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

Our Young Advisors highlighted the importance of setting targets. They spoke of the frustration they feel when the Government talk about things they should do but that they don’t see a lot of that being implemented in practice. They felt it was important to put these matters into law so that it is not a choice. They were keen that people in power be held accountable. They told us about wanting to see the right types of trees in the right places, and incentives given to farmers to protect wildlife.

Setting targets is a way to measure progress towards the goal of halting biodiversity loss and restoring it.[15] It creates a level of accountability to the public, including children and young people.  As supported by those in the environmental sector, these targets can serve as the turning point for threatened species and habitats.[16]  

I feel like there’s a lot more talking than doing. The talking they do must align with their actions. Where’s the actions?’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

The targets that have been scrapped, That’s something that’s in my head. We’re meant to be one of the big renewable giants in Europe. It’s really disappointing.’(CYPCS Young Advisor).

As we have highlighted above, improving the education available to children and young people on climate related matters is key to this.

As is promoting access to green and blue spaces. Encouraging children and young people to have a connection with the natural world – climbing trees, planting seeds, getting muddy knees creates such a relationship.

Exposure to nature also has beneficial effects on mental health, but many children, especially in urban settings, have little or no contact with the natural environment.[17]

Our Young Advisors told us that the options for involvement in such activities are not sufficient. Unless you live in a rural area, look for information yourself or have parents who encourage you into this you were unlikely to get the information you needed or opportunities to connect with nature.

Increased participation is vital. We often see that children and young people are not included in decisions that are made in climate policy making. We have found that when it comes to climate related policy the engagement with children and young people has been lacking. For this consultation itself there were no child friendly materials. The CRIWA stated that’;

‘We would like to target engagement at children over a large geographical and household income spread with focus to following groups:

• Island community

• Urban area

• Low income household’

But when we enquired the response indicated that to date there had been no direct engagement with children and young people. Some organisations were invited to a general engagement event – speaking to adults who work with children and young people is not the same as direct engagement.

Immediate steps to work towards slowing global warming should be made. Children and young people have expressed that they are disappointed that the Scottish Governments target to cut carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 has been scrapped[18] – we will not be able to reduce the rising temperature unless serious steps are taken and the way we do things changes significantly.

Adapting for nature-based solutions should be part of the Scottish Government plan to tackle climate change. We have previously expressed our support for the upcoming Natural Environment Bill[19] and the proposed Ecocide Bill.[20]

Outcome 1: Nature Connects – Public Consultation Questions:

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

All of these were considered to be of importance to the children and young people we spoke to for this consultation.

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?

Children and young people are frequently raising the issue of litter as an issue in green and blue spaces.

Outcome 2: Communities – Public Consultation Questions:

8. For Scotland to adapt to the impacts of climate change, lots of different groups, such as individuals, communities, businesses and public bodies, will need to work together and support each other. How could others support you (or your organisation) to adapt to climate change over the next five years? You might want to think about some of the groups listed below and the roles that they could take:

• Central and local government

• Other public bodies, such as NHS Boards or enterprise agencies

• Small and large businesses

• Third sector organisations

• Communities

Building on our response to question 5 – the government can improve the work it does to listen to children and young people; and include them in decisions being made in a meaningful way. Children and young people have consistently told us that they feel like the government and other decision-makers do not include them properly.

Some told us they feel powerless and that ‘no one listens’ and this can lead to apathy;

‘At this point what can we do – the governments are not doing what they need to’(Child, CYPCS Strategic Plan consultation response)

Some comment that young people are not taken seriously or that young activists are ridiculed.

We spoke to our Young Advisors about what meaningful and effective participation should look like. They told us that the ways in which consultations were done were a real barrier to them. Little effort is made to make materials available in child friendly formats. Even if child friendly documents are available, these are not going to be appropriate for all children and young people.

It works great if it’s easily accessible to all children and young people.’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

Some suggested that more has to be done to reach them – politicians and civil servants should be making the effort to engage with schools and other organisations to find out what they think.

‘Workshops are really good ideas. It would work really well if they did that in schools or community groups. Lots of different people.’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

They suggested that doing surveys were a good way to allow a range of children to give their opinions.

They thought that making videos was a helpful tool – most children spend time accessing social media and they felt that these communication channels could be better used to reach them.

‘How many people my age are going to read the document? Videos…we live with social media. If you really want a mass of young people, the best way to do that would be to get it over that way.’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

‘I know a lot of people in my school don’t enjoy reading and would enjoy listening to podcasts.’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

Some spoke positively about events they had been to in the past on education reform and felt similar formats might be used to discuss climate change.

‘National Discussions…in a local area people from different schools. There was primary and secondary school children talking to each other. It was very good. They had us make videos. I did a rap. I want to know the impact of my rap!’ (CYPCS Young Advisor).

They also wanted to share that being asked about an idea once and then never hearing from decision makers again was not acceptable. They want decision makers to be accountable to them and return to tell them how their input has been used and in what ways it has been effective.

9. In what way(s) could the plan help different groups across Scotland and/or its regions to collaborate on climate adaptation? Please offer suggestions that could support collaboration on climate adaptation. For example, the plan could describe how different groups should work together and support each other. Or the plan could define geographic areas, roles and responsibilities for responding to climate change risks. Please offer suggestions that could support collaboration on climate adaptation. You might want to think about collaboration between some of the groups listed below:

• Central and local government

• Other public bodies, such as NHS Boards or enterprise agencies

• Small and large businesses

• Third sector organisations

• Communities

The plan could incorporate some form of duty to consult with children and young people and a clear guide for participation.

Outcome 4: Economy, Business and Industry – Public Consultation Questions:

14. How should farming, fishing and forestry businesses be supported to adapt to climate change?

Some children and young people have expressed they feel that these industries may be playing a role in the loss of nature and biodiversity. Whilst all of these sectors play a vital role in Scotland, providing healthy and nutritious food, emissions from agriculture are steadily increasing[21] and overfishing and dredging our seas has caused a number of negative impacts.[22] These industries need to be supported to adapt their practices and made sustainable. Effective advice and support on climate change should be available to them, alongside appropriate restrictions. There should be diversified woodland creation without just a focus on commercial timber.[23]

When it comes to protecting our ocean, children and young people in Scotland show initiative and make suggestions through organisations such as the Ullapool Sea Savers. They highlight the issues caused by activities like dredging and the impact on kelp which underpins the health of coastal waters.[24]

15. Climate change is projected to increase disruption of international and domestic supply chains. How do you anticipate disruption to domestic and/or international supply chains caused by climate change will affect Scottish business, industry and consumers?

We have particular concerns regarding the supply of nutritious, healthy and affordable food as a result of disruption to supply chains though climate change and biodiversity loss. Families experiencing poverty will be disproportionately affected by this.

Healthier foods like fruit and vegetables and grains are already going up in cost. Less healthy foods are often cheaper options. This fuels health inequalities.

17. Scottish businesses will face challenges as a result of climate change impacts. However, climate change will also present business and innovation opportunities. What, if any, do you think are the business and innovation opportunities arising from climate change in Scotland?

This is an important consideration, many children and young people have expressed to us that they would like to have roles in these industries or in conservation, some do not know how they would get into these.

Education on climate change needs to start young. Children have to be supported in age-appropriate ways throughout their education, and see the potential career paths. This will lead to new green innovations, future expertise, and talent.

Outcome 5: International Action – Public Consultation

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

As previously stated, children and young people are clear that Scotland should play its part within a global community and support other countries hit hardest by the effects of climate change.

Monitoring and Evaluation – Public Consultation Questions:

23. The draft Adaptation Plan sets out plans to develop an adaptation monitoring and evaluation framework. Our proposed approach is for annual reports to include a set of quantitative indicators to monitor progress to the Adaptation Plan’s objectives. In addition, we propose to publish a baseline at the start and report on progress at the end of the Adaptation Plan to track longer-term outcomes. Do you agree with the proposed approach to monitoring adaptation?

Agree

It would also be valuable to update the Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment to help track longer term outcomes and help to mitigate any negative impacts.

27. What, if any, impact do you think this Plan will have on inequality caused by socioeconomic disadvantage?

We note that the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss is disproportionately felt by groups experiencing socio-economic disadvantage. It can exacerbate health inequalities. Low-income households may have limited economic resources which will decrease their capacity to adapt their homes to mitigate the effects of climate change.[25]

29. What, if any, impact do you think the Adaptation Plan will have on children’s rights and wellbeing?

Children and young people are disproportionately affected. The proposed Adaptation Plan has the potential to mitigate some of the effects of this.

These issues directly engage UNCRC rights, now incorporated into Scots law, including;

Article 6 – the right to life and development.

Article 24 – the right to good quality health care and a clean environment.

Article 27 – the right to a decent standard of living, including food, housing, water.

Article 29 – the right to education that supports children to learn to respect the natural environment.

Scotland (along with the rest of the world) faces a nature-climate crisis. Climate change and biodiversity loss is a children’s rights issue and as such a rights-based approach should be taken. Climate change and the decline in biodiversity go hand in hand – we need to preserve nature, combat climate change and provide clean air, water and food sources.

The UN Committee on Rights of the Child highlighted the importance of these issues in its most recent General Comment No. 26 (2023)[26] which focused on children’s rights and the environment;

‘The extent and magnitude of the triple planetary crisis, comprising the climate emergency, the collapse of biodiversity and pervasive pollution, is an urgent and systemic threat to children’s rights globally.’

The most recent Concluding Observations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child with regard to the UK highlighted the need to;

 ‘Ensure that national policies and programmes on addressing environmental protection, climate change and disaster risk management… are developed and implemented in accordance with the principles of the Convention and take into account children’s needs and views[27].’

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the environment commented that children are more at risk from environmental problems than adults but their views and interests are often left out of decisions.[28] Children and young people should be properly involved in decision making processes surrounding these issues. This should be meaningful, effective and not tokenistic. They must be actively involved in identifying solutions and policy and legislative changes to address the environmental emergency.

Children and young people must also be properly protected from any negative reprisals from acting as human rights defenders, when taking part in demonstrations.

A child’s right to a healthy environment goes beyond what is needed just for basic survival, their right to health should be to the highest attainable standard.

Everyone depends on healthy ecosystems, children and young people require this for their development at key stages. It has been shown that interaction with microbial diversity is necessary for the development of healthy immune systems, the loss of this is linked to an increase in autoimmune diseases, allergic disorders and other inflammatory diseases.[29]

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

As we have outlined, the effective participation of children and young people in climate policy making and implementation.


[1] Response to Scottish Government Consultation on ‘Tackling the Nature Emergency – Strategic Framework for Biodiversity’. – The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (cypcs.org.uk)

[2] Climate change (who.int)

[3] Child health inequalities and climate change in the UK – position statement | RCPCH

[4] Death of two-year-old from mould in flat a ‘defining moment’, says coroner | Housing | The Guardian

[5] Young people share their views at Big Survey webinar – Young Scot Corporate – the results of the full survey are unpublished at date of this response. Please contact Young Scot for further info.

[6] Scotland – State of Nature

[7] 2. The Evidence – Tackling the Nature Emergency – Scottish biodiversity strategy to 2045 – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

[8] SEPA – ‘The River Basin Management Plan – 2021-2027’ (2021) RBMP3 (sepa.org.uk)

[9] Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit | Climate, Fossil Fuels and UK… (eciu.net)

[10] Proposals for a Heat in Buildings Bill: Consultation response – The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (cypcs.org.uk)

[11] 12 ways out of fast fashion – Scottish Youth Parliament (syp.org.uk), Delivering-Scotlands-circular-economy-Scottish-Youth-Parliament-response-August-2022.pdf (syp.org.uk)

[12] Learning for sustainability: action plan 2023 to 2030 – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

[13] The Learning in Local Greenspace project | NatureScot

[14] #CabinetTakeover 2023: Climate Crisis – Scottish Youth Parliament (syp.org.uk)

[15] Legal targets for nature recovery can mark turning point for threatened species – Scotlink

[16] Legal targets for nature recovery can mark turning point for threatened species – Scotlink

[17] Every one can benefit from using nature to support mental health – Inspiring Scotland

[18] ‘Reprehensible retreat’: fury as Scottish ministers scrap carbon emissions pledge | Greenhouse gas emissions | The Guardian

[19] Response to Scottish Government Consultation on ‘Tackling the Nature Emergency – Strategic Framework for Biodiversity’. – The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (cypcs.org.uk)

[20] Response to Proposed Ecocide (Prevention) (Scotland) Bill Consultation. – The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (cypcs.org.uk)

[21] Agri-climate report 2023 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

[22] #OurSeas – The sea belongs to all of us

[23] Woodland: A Nature-Based Solution to Climate Change – Climate change – Our work – The RSPB Community

[24] #nokelpdredge – Ullapool Sea Savers

[25] Child health inequalities and climate change in the UK – position statement | RCPCH

[26] CRC/C/GC/26: General comment No. 26 (2023) on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change | OHCHR

[27] Concluding observations on the combined 6th and 7th periodic reports of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland :

[28] Children’s rights and the environment | OHCHR

[29] ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment’ (2017) A_HRC_34_49_EN.docx (live.com)

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