Thinking about environmental sustainability #3

This is the third in our ‘Thinking about environmental sustainability’ blog series and focuses on adaptation. 

Applicants to Creative Scotland’s Multi-Year Funding stream may find this blog useful for shaping responses to: How will you manage the impact of the climate emergency on your organisation to ensure long-term business sustainability?

For individual and shorter project fund applications it is also important to consider whether there are climate-related risks that could affect your ability to deliver your project, such as travel disruption, and think through how you could manage these risks.

Read blog #1 – introduction to the series.

Read blog #2 – on mitigation.

In this blog:

Climate change adaptation

Often when we first think about responding to climate change we think about how to reduce our emissions and wider environmental impact (mitigation) but over the past few years global climate statistics from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) as well as tangible recent weather events in the UK and abroad have driven home the fact that our climate is already changing, and we must adjust in response. The adjustments we need to make are what is generally known as adaptation.

The UN defines climate change adaptation as ‘adjustments in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities‘. In the arts, screen and creative industries this means ensuring that our buildings are physically equipped to deal with the weather and protected against risks of flooding, and thinking through our activities to understand where climate-related problems might arise so we can plan to reduce the risk. We can expect weather in Scotland to get warmer, wetter and wilder so buildings need to be able to withstand both hotter and colder temperatures as well as faster changes in weather – all the while without consuming more fossil fuels. We also need to look beyond physical risks to the opportunities that different weather patterns might provide, and build strong relationships with the communities we work in and with.

From 2018 to 2021, Creative Carbon Scotland led a Creative Europe project – Cultural Adaptations – working with cultural and adaptation partners in Glasgow, Ghent, Gothenburg and Dublin. It resulted in two useful toolkits: Adapting our Culture is for cultural organisations wanting to develop an adaptation plan, whilst our Embedded Artist projects for adaptation toolkit helps develop projects that involve artists in work with non-cultural organisations working on adaptation.

Creative Scotland is required by law to contribute to the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP2 is the current version). Although few cultural organisations that we know of currently have a climate adaptation plan, Creative Scotland’s guidance for applicants on their Environmental Sustainability criterion for all funding programmes states: ‘Sector organisations should include climate risks and plans to mitigate those risks in corporate and major project risk registers and work towards the development of a climate adaptation plan if this is not yet in place [our emphasis]. This will help to minimise risks that staff, artists and audiences may not be able to attend activity or events being cancelled due to weather events.’

Local matters

Unlike mitigation, adaptation is something that will be different for each organisation: it is local and depends on very individual circumstances. Local authorities will have information about other local adaptation efforts and will know the changes expected in their area. Working with local communities and environmental groups will therefore be helpful to gain local knowledge and keep abreast of what’s going on in your area. If you’re looking for ways to connect in your local area you might like to find your nearest Climate Beacon, come along to one of our SPRINGBOARD local assemblies, or get in touch to organise one.


Creative Scotland now asks applicants to its main funding streams questions about their plans to respond to the impacts of climate change. Partly this is about risk, and this could apply to applications for longer-term support such as Multi-Year Funding or those for short-term, one-off projects. Questions an organisation could consider are:


  • Is your building (or land) at risk of flooding from rivers or sea level rise?
  • Is your building at risk from heavy rain, snow or high winds?
  • Is your building at risk of being unusable in very cold or very warm temperatures?


  • Could severe weather events (rain, snow, heatwave, cold snap etc) disrupt a performance or touring schedule?
  • Could severe weather events hinder staff, artists or audiences from reaching an event or venue?

Supplies and supply chains

  • Are your supply chains vulnerable to climate-related risks – either because the goods cannot be produced or because transport routes could become disrupted? Remember that severe weather or climate-related changes a long way away can impact on your activities at home.
  • Will you be able to get artworks and goods that you supply to where they are needed on time?

These issues should be addressed in an organisation’s risk register or a project risk assessment with appropriate responses planned. These might be things that can be done in advance – taking out the right insurance, undertaking capital works to improve the building or shifting the timing for a project so that inclement weather is less likely to cause problems. Or, it might involve developing a plan to respond if the problem arises, such as knowing availability of back-up venues or researching where to get temporary equipment.


When it comes to longer-term planning, there might be opportunities to shift schedules or change types of events along with any changes and trends in seasons. Tourist seasons might change with new weather patterns. There might be the opportunity to hold outdoor or indoor events depending on how weather patterns change.

Building strong, cohesive communities is an important part of adaptation policy across the world. Cultural organisations can play a part in bringing communities together, developing narratives for a positive future in a climate-changed world. Cultural buildings can even provide a source of information and, in an emergency, a place of gathering and safety for local communities. Strengthening relationships with communities can increase cultural organisations’ social value and their support in times of decreasing funding.

Preparing for the future

We know that thinking about climate adaptation is a developing area for everyone across the cultural sector. We’ll soon be bringing together interested organisations in peer groups to learn more about adaptation and implement and review tools. Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more about this together. A good starting point might be our guide to adapting to climate change. For a deeper look, other resources include those developed and shared by Adaptation Scotland.

There are also climate justice considerations for adaptation. These will be covered in our blog on 18 October.

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