The Environment Strategy for Scotland: Driving the Transition to a Nature Positive Economy - A Synthesis of Policy Levers for Governments

This report supports the research project ‘Delivering the Environment Strategy Outcome on Scotland’s Economy: Evidence base and Policy levers’. It focuses on the transition to a nature positive economy, summarises key evidence, and presents a synthesis of potential actions.

11. Conclusions

Conserving biodiversity by policies that promise to reverse its loss is becoming a common requirement. The failure of reaching the Aichi biodiversity target by 2020 should not be ignored. This increases the pressure on delivering the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, endorsed by 64 countries in September 2020, signatories to which included the UK Prime Minister. The Pledge included commitments to protecting at least 30% of terrestrial areas and seas, and restoring lands outside protected areas by 2030.

Achieving this goal needs recognition that any effort in halting and then reversing the loss of biodiversity requires coordination with policies tackling climate change and actions from public, private, third sectors, and individuals. Within their remits and roles, each of these types of actors has responsibilities and capabilities to embrace the principles of a nature positive economy. This vision of the economy emphasizes wellbeing for nature and societies rather than the total throughput of materials. It is anchored to a series of principles that reframe economics around stewardship of the whole; generating co-created collective values; promotion of governance through cosmopolitan localism (i.e. ensuring decisions are made at the most local level possible while acknowledging the global context); promoting generativity, reciprocity, and circularity, and relationality and connectedness. The literature on nature positive economies emphasises these values. A challenge is to find and integrate the policy levers that promote these values.

The policy levers proposed by Harris (2023) to progress towards sustainable consumption (infrastructure-based, information-based, economic, and regulatory) have been integrated into the framework of Economic Operating Infrastructures (EOI). These comprise economic innovations associated with efforts to shift narratives away from conventional economics toward one of a thriving life, with innovations in economic governance, financing and exchange mechanisms, and products and services.

The review of literature and case studies identified:

  • three main regulatory measures of multilateral agreements; mandatory due diligence; and sustainable public procurement for reversing biodiversity loss;
  • three principal economic measures of taxes, subsidies, and pricing of resources for stimulating ecosystem services markets;
  • the roles of building EOI based upon dissemination and education of narratives that inform multilateral economic governance for addressing local aspects of conservation. These promote nature-based solutions at local and landscape scale, and international multilateral platforms managing forest, agriculture, fisheries, water through multilateral public-private-voluntary partnerships.

This high-level summary of findings also reflects the substitution of information-based and infrastructure-based levers (Harris, 2023) with some of the EOI (Waddell et al ., 2023).

Evidence from the case studies shows that to progress towards a nature positive economy it will be necessary to form new relationships between parties to address public and private sectors and civil society. However, greater accountability will be required in all sectors, to ensure credible and accurate assessments of impacts and dependencies on natural capital throughout value chains.

The review of the pilot from the TNFD suggests mandatory due diligence obligations, offers a strategy with the greatest scope for reducing environmental footprints within supply chains, and aligns with the objectives of the Scottish Government Environment Strategy. To prepare for new nature positive policies, EOI such as valuing nature and introducing new exchange mechanisms (PES schemes and ecosystem services markets) are fundamental to embed the importance of natural capital in decision making.

A broad range of indicators can be expected to be required and used to monitor how the economy in its entirety, and per sector, is performing against natural, human, and social domains, as well as financially. To align these policies towards a nature positive pathway will require the right fiscal and economic incentives to enforce polluter pay principles through taxes and remove subsidies of harmful activities. The promotion of restorative measures by the public, private and civil society sectors will require suitable financial policy levers to stimulate and regulate investment through green finance.

The materials reviewed suggest that by embedding the goal of nature positivity by 2030, and building an economy around Economic Operating Infrastructures that promote principles of wellbeing, conditions can be established for an economy which replenishes natural capital, secures against the risks associated with biodiversity loss, and contexts for societal prosperity.



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