The basis for tackling climate change in the islands has been approved by the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership (OHCPP).
Two documents, Climate Change Rationale and the Case for Action, spell out how the Outer Hebrides will respond to climate change and rising sea levels.
It is estimated that even if global temperatures are kept below 1.5 degrees C, the Outer Hebrides can still expect to see climate change-related impacts.
Due to their geographic location, the Outer Hebrides can expect the climate emergency to result in more frequent storm events, changes in rainfall patterns, and temperature and sea level rise. However, climate impacts are likely to vary from island to island.
It is also feared that the islands' fragile ecosystems, rural communities, declining population, and ageing demographics increase vulnerability to climate impacts.
These climate impacts, it is noted, are highly interconnected with local priorities, including land ownership and rights, poverty and fuel poverty, jobs and businesses, digital connectivity, transport, and housing.
Ignoring the climate emergency is not an option, it is pointed out. A changing climate will exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and make tackling challenges such as poverty reduction and attracting/retaining people increasingly difficult. This is because climate change impacts ecosystems, health, economy, tourism, food production, infrastructure and livelihoods, affecting water, fuel and food security.
The OHCPP drew up the playbook for dealing with the climate emergency with support from Adaptation Scotland.
The underpinnings of the strategy draw upon information compiled over the last two years. The Climate Rationale also sets out how the islands' climate is changing and how this will impact the people, environment and economy of the Outer Hebrides.
A key resource launched earlier this year is an interactive map that allows users to visualise how things might change at any location in the Outer Hebrides.
The Case for Action builds upon the rationale. It is geared toward enhancing engagement with organisations and communities throughout the Outer Hebrides and finding out the big issues in various localities. That information will be used to inform planning for adaptation action.
David Maclennan, chair of the Climate Change Working Group, said: "The climate projections are clear, and we can already see and feel how our climate is changing and affecting us. The Climate Rationale really helps to set out what might lie ahead for us, and I hope it helps to get people talking about how climate change might affect them. We need to hear from all parts of the community – especially our young people – and work out what our highest priorities for action are."
Meanwhile, Councillor Paul Steele, chair of the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership, added: "Our communities can readily testify to the impacts of climate change, and it is vital that we build a framework outlining the risks we face but also how we might take action to mitigate those impacts. We want our communities to be central in those discussions, and I look forward to further engagement to take these issues forward.