Preparing Edinburgh for climate change

Preparing our city for a changing climate

Over the next years, climate change is going to impact on our lives in many ways. Already, in the last 100 years, temperatures have increased, sea levels risen, and rainfall patterns have changed. These changes will continue and intensify over the coming decades and will affect people’s health and jobs (the Met Office's UK Climate Projections has more information about this). They also affect our buildings, infrastructure, economy and the world around us.

We are already getting ready for, and managing the risks brought about by climate change, whilst supporting the needs of people, communities and businesses in Edinburgh. This is happening as we also reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

What climate change is doing to Edinburgh's weather

Changes in our climate mean that our autumn and winters are expected to become wetter. As well as an increase in total rainfall, we are likely to see more intense downpours, which will lead to surface water flooding. This will pose an ongoing challenge to Edinburgh.

Extreme rain in Edinburgh has already led to

  • flooding
  • damaged roads and buildings
  • travel delays
  • disruption to businesses and communities
  • cancellation of events.

The intensity of storms is likely to increase, including summer storms linked to heavy summer rainfall.

A warming climate will also mean hotter temperatures. This will be felt most keenly in Edinburgh’s urban areas where energy use is high, where there are lots of hard surfaces and where there is little vegetation such as trees to help cool the air. This is known as the ‘urban heat island’ effect, which can lead to even higher temperatures. 

Hotter days will also affect

  • patterns of disease and other health issues, impacting on people’s health and wellbeing, especially older and more vulnerable citizens
  • the design, construction, management and use of our buildings through issues with water management because of flooding and drought, as well as weathering and overheating
  • the transport infrastructure.

How climate change is affecting our wildlife and seasons

The changing climate will also affect nature and the plants and animals that live in our city, making it harder for them to survive. 

Plants and animals are already feeling the effects of climate change. Habitats and ecosystems are being affected by temperature increases, drought and flooding. In the future, this also means that

  • hotter days, flooding, drought and coastal erosion could cause some species and habitats to disappear or move
  • Edinburgh’s ecosystems could be damaged as the types of plants and animals living in Edinburgh change.

Our seasons are also changing, with spring arriving earlier. This could lead to

  • native and migrant wildlife becoming out of sync with the seasons
  • changes to our natural environment
  • changes to the way we farm
  • changes to natural events like pollination.

How climate change is affecting Edinburgh residents

Climate change will have the greatest impact on

  • older and more vulnerable citizens
  • people with poor health
  • people on lower incomes
  • people living in privately owned or socially rented homes.

Tackling climate change in Edinburgh is the right thing to do for the planet and for humankind. It can also bring wider social, health and economic benefits for the whole city. For example, improving the energy efficiency of homes can help lower home energy bills and improve people’s health and wellbeing as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Edinburgh net zero 2030

Working to be a net zero city by 2030