2023 was a year of great progress and change for Highland Adapts. In 2023, we focused on developing a strong knowledge and evidence base, facilitating information sharing, and supporting communities, businesses, and the public sector to embed climate change adaptation throughout their activities.

In 2024, we will focus on identifying opportunities to reduce and overcome these climate risks, developing shared adaptation strategies, and supporting others to use plans to form the basis of projects and activities across the region.

Many exciting developments are coming from Highland Adapts this year, including opportunities to collaborate on the Highland Climate Risk and Opportunity Assessment before it is published this year, relaunching our Community Climate Advocates group, and engagement with communities across our region. We remain deeply committed to supporting the transformational changes needed for a prosperous, climate-ready Highland region.

Still, we begin the year with a sobering reminder of the challenge ahead of us. New research published by the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen at the end of December found that Scotland’s climate has changed and is continuing to change faster than previously predicted.

In 2023, Scotland experienced its hottest June on record while July was the world’s hottest month on record, ever. Daily global sea surface temperatures broke records at the beginning of August, Arctic sea ice continues to decline, and Antarctic sea ice coverage reached record-low levels.

According to Dr Mike Rivington, who led this new research from The James Hutton Institute,

“There has never been a more important time to understand the scale of the threat and how fast we need to act. The acceleration of climate change and biodiversity loss on a global scale could push us beyond key tipping points, which if crossed will be irreversible. The fact that we have already experienced some of the projected changes in Scotland’s climate suggests that climate change is happening faster. This will have global impacts, affecting trade and undermining the stability of economies at same time reducing our own capacity to adapt, for example, homegrown food and the water and energy and nature based services we get from today’s ecosystems.”

In the face of severe challenges and stark realities such as these, we must use this information as power to propel us forward in our shared efforts to mitigate our impacts on the climate and build future resilience. As we embark on this work in 2024, Highland Adapts remains guided by a set of core principles that define our approach:

  • Transformational Action – through brave leadership, we embed hope and prioritise action.
  • Collaboration- we facilitate working together and the sharing of knowledge, expertise and resources.
  • Place-based- we are place-centred, with an approach that is bottom-up and fully inclusive.
  • Evidence-based– all our action is supported by up-to-date qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Sustainable– we only endorse robust, resilient and future-proof actions using the blueprint of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to achieve a flourishing, climate-ready future for all.
  • Influence– we use our presence and connections to support cultural change
  • Climate and social justice– our work is rooted in a deep understanding of the needs and priorities of communities.
  • Build capacity – through education, knowledge sharing and facilitating connections we increase confidence and the ability to adapt in others
  • Celebrate – we communicate and promote ongoing inspiring climate action and initiatives.
  • Empower – we enable communities/places to increase control over their ability to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

We look forward to navigating 2024 with you, turning challenges into opportunities, and supporting your work to build resilience for the years ahead.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council, Zero Waste Scotland, Changeworks, Forestry and Land Scotland, NHS Highland, NatureScot, Sniffer, Highlands & Islands Climate Hub