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Creating a city-wide adaptation action plan and vision with Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Adapts project has created a city wide adaptation vision and action plan that is inclusive, innovative and responsive to local priorities. This case study explains how we did it.
Prem Neupane


Adaptation is a challenge where we really are all in it together. The Edinburgh Adapts project has created a city wide adaptation vision and action plan that is inclusive, innovative and responsive to local priorities. In order to foster effective partnerships, the project focused on identifying actions that organisations can’t implement on their own and that need a joined up response from two or more partners. The resulting action plan runs from 2016-2020 and contains over 100 committed partnership actions which collectively will help Edinburgh become a climate ready city. The Vision looks even further; setting out the project partners’ adaptation aims for two key landmark dates, 2025 and 2050, and illustrates the benefits of becoming a climate ready city.

The Edinburgh Adapts Methodology Case Study is available to download from the right-hand column as the Featured Download; the Action Plan and Vision are available to download under Further Resources below.

Who was involved?

The Edinburgh Adapts project began in March 2015 as a joint initiative between the Edinburgh Sustainable Development Partnership (ESDP) and Adaptation Scotland. This focus on partnership working was built into the project from the start. The ESDP formed a dedicated Task Group that included representatives from the City of Edinburgh Council, Adaptation Scotland, Edinburgh World Heritage, Transition Edinburgh South, Edible Edinburgh, Historic Environment Scotland and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation. The group brought valuable knowledge and expertise and helped design the engagement process.

Methods and Tools

1. Developing a shared vision

Creating a shared action plan and vision for Edinburgh that was truly owned by the city required reaching out to key organisations, finding out what risks and opportunities mattered most to them, and helping them work together to design shared actions to address the challenges identified. The Task Group invited organisations across the city to submit potential actions and co-designed a programme of five workshops to discuss, review and agree shared actions.

2. Running the workshops

The workshops were designed in three phases. The first workshop was directed at all stakeholders. It focused on introducing the concept of climate change adaptation and generating ideas for possible actions. The next three workshops were based around three themes: The Natural Environment & Greenspace, the Built Environment and Infrastructure, and Economy & Society. At these workshops, stakeholders designed shared ways of achieving the actions put forward. The fifth and final workshop brought all the stakeholders together again to review the actions and suggest further links across the themes. In parallel with the workshops a series of one-to-one meetings were held with key partners to help them to craft their initial ideas into workable shared actions.

3. Agreeing actions

Between April and August 2016, a draft vision and action plan was developed, circulated for consultation, and submitted to partners for approval. On approval, forty partners committed to 100 partnership actions and a further twenty aspirational actions were identified to be developed in the future.

4. Implementing actions

Finally, the Task Group ran a survey with participants to identify the best way to support the implementation of the action plan and continue to work in partnership. As a result, ESDP set up a dedicated Edinburgh Adapts Steering Group open to all. The group is now responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the Action Plan and facilitating partnership working.

Next Steps

The Edinburgh Adapts Steering Group is already working to support implementation and develop further partnership working. Together the Group are identifying new projects and funding sources and bringing in new partners to build on the strong foundation established by the vision and action plan.

The first Edinburgh Adapts Action Plan and Vision were published in December 2016. A dedicated Steering Group drawn from key actors in the action plan has now taken over leadership of the project, with Adaptation Scotland continuing to provide advice and guidance. This Steering Group will report progress on the Action Plan to the ESDP, ensuring the city’s adaptation agenda is self-owned and self-directed.

Building on the success of Edinburgh Adapts, Adaptation Scotland have now started a new place-based adaptation project in Aberdeen, which you can read about here.

Lessons Learnt

In the course of this project, we learned a number of lessons on how to create an effective partnership project.

1. Invite people to get involved as early on as possible – involving a wide range of stakeholders in planning the project set a collaborative tone for the process, and ensured that those ultimately responsible for implementing the action plan were invested in the city’s adaptation agenda from the beginning.

2. Give stakeholders the opportunity to contribute resources – providing a workshop venue, or a presentation, reinforces the shared purpose of the project and helps them to showcase their actions.

3. Provide a vision and back it up with action – adapting to climate change is a long term process. Developing a positive vision of an adapting future can help bridge the gap between immediate actions and long term aspirations.

Funding Edinburgh Adapts

The majority of funding for the Edinburgh Adapts project was provided by Adaptation Scotland, the Scottish Government’s climate change adaptation programme. This included staff time to design, arrange and host the engagement workshops, and funds to pay for the design and printing of the final Action Plan and Vision document. Additional resources and staff time were provided by the City of Edinburgh Council.

ESDP members and other project partners were given the opportunity to also provide resources (such as venue space for the engagement workshops). This helped to both keep costs low and create a sense of joint ownership of the project, which carried over into the formation of the Steering Group. The City of Edinburgh Council has committed to continuing to provide a secretariat role for the Steering Group, with other Steering Group members participating on a voluntary basis. The diversity of actions within the final plan mean that many different funding approaches are being taken to transform ambition into action, with some actions being funded from existing internal sources and others being incorporated into bids for external funding. The network created during the project makes sharing funding opportunities and building bidding consortiums easier, putting Edinburgh in a strong position to reach its ambitious goals.

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