The approach we take to environment and climate change policies will play an essential role in our nation's success over the coming decades. It will protect the beauty and uniqueness of Scotland's landscapes and nature, which are precious in their own right. And it will create new opportunities to strengthen our economy, social wellbeing, health and equality. Our ambition is to continue to establish Scotland's place in the world as a country ready to lead global action to address current and future environmental challenges, and to collaborate with others as we do that.
In individual areas of environmental policy, Scotland already has strong, ambitious strategies in place. For example:
- Earlier this year, we published our new Climate Change Plan – a sister document to our new Energy Strategy – which details how the Scottish Government will continue to drive progress towards the currently legislated emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050. In response to the international Paris Agreement, we have introduced a new Bill to Parliament which will make Scotland's existing climate legislation even tougher. The Bill immediately sets a 90% emissions reduction target for 2050 and requires that the earliest achievable date for reaching net-zero emissions is regularly reviewed. As soon as a target date for reaching net-zero emissions can be set credibly and responsibly, we will write that date into law. We will always strive for the most ambitious target possible, based on the best available evidence.
- Last year, the Scottish Government and its partners won "The Circulars" Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos, reflecting the core position of the circular economy in our Economic Strategy (2015) and Manufacturing Action Plan (2016), and our ambitious circular economy strategy, Making Things Last (2016).
- We have a pioneering Land Use Strategy (2016) with a strategic vision on how to realise the full potential of Scotland's land in ways that result in multiple benefits for our economy, environment and communities.
- Our biodiversity strategy, the 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity (2013), is Scotland's response to the EU biodiversity targets and UN Aichi targets. It sets a target of halting the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services in Scotland by 2020 and is accompanied by a Route Map (2015), which sets outs six 'Big Steps for nature' and Priority Projects to deliver them. Scotland is a stronghold for habitats and species threatened elsewhere in Europe, providing the largest part of the UK's contribution to the EU Natura 2000 network of protected sites.
- Scotland has the most stringent air quality targets in the UK. Our air quality strategy, Cleaner Air for Scotland (2015), sets out how we will reduce air pollution to protect human health and fulfil EU legal commitments by 2020.
- Our holistic approach to implementing the EU Water Framework Directive, through the River Basin Management Plans for the Scotland River Basin District (2015) and the cross-border Solway Tweed River Basin District (2015) is an exemplar in Europe.
- We were the first country in the world to develop a natural capital asset index, which is embedded in our National Performance Framework.
- Scotland's first National Marine Plan (2015) provides a single framework for the sustainable development and use of Scotland's seas, and our Marine Nature Conservation Strategy (2011) has helped to establish a Marine Protected Area network covering more than one fifth of our seas.
Further strategies on areas such as higher activity radioactive waste also help to provide frameworks to guide long-term investment and decision-making. As we develop integrated future policy on agriculture, land use and environment we will look to provide stability and security for producers, land managers and businesses while at the same time working to maintain and protect environmental standards and support decarbonisation. And, over the summer, we will begin engagement on a new Forestry Strategy to focus on the long- term strategic framework for the future direction of forestry in Scotland.
The new National Performance Framework sets out a new purpose to focus on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Our Environment Strategy will set out how our collective work and the commitments being delivered through our existing strategies are contributing towards the achievement of this ambition for Scotland and for its environment. It will provide a strategic statement of the ambition and high-level outcomes that these individual strategies work collectively to deliver.
Regardless of short-term challenges such as Brexit, it is vital that all of us working to protect, maintain and enhance Scotland's environment take decisions over the next few years with a clear focus on our longer-term goals and aspirations. What is our shared ambition for Scotland's land, air, water and biodiversity over the next 10, 20 or 100 years? What contribution can Scotland make to international goals and environmental challenges? And what does evidence tell us should be the priorities for our collective action and investment over the short-and- medium term to achieve that long-term vision?