On 3-4 June 2015, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, and Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Aileen McLeod, both attended EU Green Week to speak as panellists.
Organised by the European Commission, Green Week is the EU’s flagship annual conference on environment policy, bringing together participants from government, industry, NGOs, private land managers, academia and the media to facilitate an exchange of ideas and best practices. The theme of 2015 was nature and biodiversity, with the tagline “Nature – our health, our wealth”. The conference had over 3,000 delegates in attendance, and included over 30 different workshops focusing on nature protection from a number of angles, including nature and health, green infrastructure, nature and land use, nature in cities, agriculture, natural capital, and the marine environment.
The collective Scottish presence at Green Week was the most considerable and noticeable for a number of years. The Brussels office arranged for platforms for two government ministers within the Commission’s Conference schedule and a strong contingent of representation across the wider Scottish community demonstrated our level of commitment to the need to value our natural resources as part of our economic and social wealth and the importance of exchange of best practices across the EU.
'Linking Cultural and Natural Capital'
Dr Aileen McLeod, spoke at a session on ‘Linking cultural and natural capital’. She emphasised how a deep appreciation of Natural Capital as a resource underpins our economy and it needs to be taken into account when making decisions. Our Economic Strategy clearly sets out the priority Scotland places on natural capital. Dr McLeod highlighted Scottish Natural Heritage’s work on developing a Natural Capital Asset Index for Scotland and the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, taking the opportunity to invite interested participants to the World Forum taking place again in Edinburgh this November. The Minister used the example of the Central Scotland Green Network to demonstrate policies that are transforming a former industrial heartland in Scotland, with its pockets of deprivation, through the development of a strategic network of woodland and other habitats, active travel routes, greenspace links, watercourses and waterways, providing an enhanced setting for development and other land uses and improved opportunities for outdoor recreation and cultural activity. Thereby improving social, environmental and cultural health across central Scotland.
During her visit to Brussels, the Minister undertook a wider programme of activity developed by the Scottish Government EU Office. Within this programme the Minister met with senior Commission officials –including the host of Green Week, Director General of DG ENV, Karl Falkenberg and the Director General of DG Climate Action, Jos Delbeke, to discuss environment and climate policy issues. The Minister also met with Scottish Member of the European Parliament on the Environment and Public Health Committee, Ian Duncan. A meeting with the Head of Cabinet to Commissioner for the Environment and Maritime Affairs, Karmenu Vella, led to a bilateral with the Commissioner himself at Environment Council two weeks later. The Minister’s programme placed a high value on establishing key relationships within Brussels with a view to strengthening these at a Ministerial level for long term benefit and enhanced visibility of Scotland across EU environment and climate policy.
'Nature in Our Seas'
The Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead, spoke at a session during the conference entitled ‘Nature in Our Seas’ alongside Tony Long of WWF and Commissioner for the Environment and Maritime Affairs, Karmenu Vella. Mr Lochhead opened his address by reiterating the EU’s importance to Scotland’s interests, echoing recent remarks made in Brussels by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Following his introductory remarks, while stressing that Scotland’s seas are the fourth largest in the EU, with a huge diversity of marine life and habitats, the Cabinet Secretary was keen to highlight the role Scotland’s recent implementation of Marine Protected Areas is playing to help protect and enhance the marine environment.
Wider Scotland was well represented at EU Green Week 2015, with the Scottish Government EU Office working closely together with Scotland Europa to coordinate and maximise synergies between the Ministerial presence and the Scotland Europa environment-focused membership contingent attending. These members included:
Scottish Land & Estates, together with the European Landowners’ Organisation and the RISE Foundation, shared a stand in the exhibition centre, which offered a good platform to promote the Wildlife Estates Scotland initiative in particular.
Jonathan Hughes of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and IUCN, moderated a Business Round Table, which discussed approaches progressive businesses are taking to address biodiversity‐related impacts of their operations – a session which also offered an opportunity to position the upcoming World Forum on Natural Capital in Edinburgh.
Scotland Europa had supported Eileen Stuart from Scottish Natural Heritage in getting a platform to speak at a session on the links between nature and health, where she highlighted the prominence of this agenda in SNH’s work and the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy Route Map.
RSPB Scotland was represented, both as part of Scotland Europa and though BirdLife International, who had an exhibition stand and featured heavily in the workshop discussions through speakers and active participation.