The Environment Strategy for Scotland: vision and outcomes

Overview of the Environment Strategy for Scotland’s long-term vision and supporting outcomes.

4. Environment Strategy outcomes: how will we get there?

To achieve this vision, the Scottish Government and our partners will focus our collective efforts on delivering six shared outcomes (Figure 1).

  • Three outcomes describe our ambitions for the environment, focusing on nature, climate change and resource-use.
  • Three outcomes describe the relationship between the environment and wider ambitions for our economy, society and international impact.

Outcome: Scotland's nature is protected and restored with flourishing biodiversity and clean and healthy air, water, seas and soils

Scotland's natural environment is our life support system. Our health, wellbeing and prosperity all rely on the services[17] it provides. Global assessments have shown clearly that our natural world is in crisis (Figure 5). The State of Nature Report for Scotland 2019 highlighted the decline in biodiversity in our own country. We must halt and reverse this decline and improve the health and quality of our air, water, seas and soils. This will help to ensure that our natural environment is resilient, whatever the future may bring.

A range of existing policies contribute to delivering this outcome, including our Biodiversity Strategy[18] and Route Map,[19] the National Marine Plan,[20] River Basin Management Plans,[21] the Cleaner Air for Scotland Strategy[22] and the Scottish Soils Framework.[23] Our Biodiversity Strategy will take account of the new post-2020 global biodiversity framework and targets being developed to deliver the Convention on Biological Diversity's 2050 vision of 'living in harmony with nature'. We will work across government and with partners in the public, private and third sectors to deliver improved biodiversity. We will publish a revised Cleaner Air for Scotland Strategy in 2020.

Figure 5: The global decline in nature
Figure 5

Infographic text:

1 million species are at risk of extinction
96% of mammals on Earth are livestock or humans (by biomass)
75% of the Earth's land area has already been significantly altered
60% average decline in wildlife populations over the last 50 years

Source: IPBES Global Assessment (2019) and WWF Living Planet Report (2018)[24]

Outcome: We play our full role in tackling the global climate emergency and limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C

Fulfilling Scotland's role in tackling the global climate emergency and limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C is a moral obligation. Climate change is an issue of justice, disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable communities and nations around the world, who have contributed least to historic emissions. Climate change is also one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss, threatening the stability of our natural world.

Achieving this outcome means ending Scotland's contribution to climate change, reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest. It also means reducing Scotland's carbon footprint, including emissions associated with imported products. Finally, it means ensuring that Scotland is resilient to the future impacts of climate change through adaptation measures.

A healthy natural environment is key to achieving net zero. Evidence shows that areas which are nature-rich are also rich in carbon. Nature-based solutions, including tree planting and peatland restoration, will help to lock in carbon and protect us from the impacts of global warming. The way we use and manage our land is also important. For example, we need to make the best use of our productive land by reducing emissions from agriculture while producing high quality food and protecting nature.

Actions to deliver this outcome are currently set out in our Climate Change Plan[25] and the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme.[26] We will publish an update to the Climate Change Plan by the end of April 2020, identifying how we aim to achieve Scotland's net zero targets. In 2021, we will introduce regional land use partnerships to ensure that we maximise the potential of Scotland's land to help achieve net zero. We will support the reduction of emissions from agriculture through our Programme for Government commitment to create a new agricultural transformation programme and by establishing an agricultural modernisation fund.

Outcome: We use and re-use resources wisely and have ended the throw-away culture

The global use of natural resources has more than tripled since 1970 and continues to grow.[27] Using resources sustainably is essential to tackling both the climate and nature crises. This will reduce the pressure on natural systems created as we extract resources and dispose of waste. This means transitioning to a circular economy and ending our reliance on single-use products.

Scotland has been at the forefront of developing a circular economy, which mimics nature by using waste from one process as source materials for another. For natural resources like soil, plants and animals, this means ensuring resources are harvested no faster than nature can regenerate them, and designing production processes to replenish, or 'give back to', living systems. For manufactured materials like plastics, textiles and metals, it means mimicking nature's cycles by designing products to be recovered and restored through repair, reuse, refurbishment and recycling.

Our circular economy strategy, Making Things Last,[28] and the Food Waste Reduction Action Plan[29] will support the delivery of this outcome. We will work to embed circular economy models and practice throughout our economy and society, including through a Circular Economy Bill.[30]

Outcome: Our thriving, sustainable economy conserves and grows our natural assets

This means creating a net zero, circular economy that values nature.

Our economy depends on the natural world as a source for its raw materials and a sink for its wastes. Drawing on nature's resources faster than they can be regenerated, and producing wastes faster than they can be absorbed, depletes our natural capital. It is essential to understand the impacts of our economic activities on Scotland's natural capital, and to design our business models to regenerate rather than deplete it. Scotland's first ever Natural Capital Accounts,[31] published in March 2019, estimated that those elements of Scotland's natural capital that can be valued are worth at least £291 billion. Although the value of nature cannot be given a price tag, this estimate underscores the enormous importance of nature to our economy. We also developed the world's first Natural Capital Asset Index,[32] which allows us to track changes in Scotland's natural capital.

Scotland's transition to a net zero, circular economy is already underway. International climate targets and pressures on global resources are creating large emerging markets in carbon-neutral, circular solutions. With Scotland's natural resources, expertise and strong record of innovation, we are well placed to lead change, developing technologies and expertise that we can export across the world. This will continue to create business and investment opportunities and new, high quality jobs across Scotland. We have established a Just Transition Commission to help ensure these opportunities are shared fairly, tackling poverty and inequalities.

Priorities for our economy are set out in Scotland's Economic Strategy[33] and Economic Action Plan.[34] Building on these, we will explore opportunities to drive the transformations to our economy needed to protect and restore nature and achieve net zero. Where appropriate, we will explore the potential to deliver priorities that rely on finance and investment through the Green New Deal for Scotland, announced in the 2019/20 Programme for Government.[35] We will ensure alignment between the Environment Strategy and the Infrastructure Investment Plan. The next Plan will be informed by the findings of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland, which recommend that natural infrastructure be included in the Scottish Government's definition of infrastructure.

Outcome: Our healthy environment supports a fairer, healthier, more inclusive society

Adapting to thrive within the sustainable limits of our single, shared planet will mean transforming the design and delivery of social policies and public services. It will also mean making our lifestyles more sustainable, consuming and wasting less, while improving our wellbeing and quality of life.

We are already making many of these changes. They will help to create a fairer, healthier, more inclusive and resilient society, enhancing the wellbeing of individuals and communities across Scotland. For example, improving air quality and access to greenspace will create significant health benefits and help to tackle inequalities.

Many policies currently contribute to delivering this outcome, including policies on transport, planning, energy, waste, recycling, health, education, early years, access, landscape, culture and Fairer Scotland. Building on these, we will explore opportunities to improve the sustainability of our society while enhancing the wellbeing of Scotland's people.

Outcome: We are responsible global citizens with a sustainable international footprint

If everyone on Earth consumed resources as we do in Scotland, we would need three planets. Our consumption relies on resources extracted or used in other parts of the world, including water, land and biological and mineral resources. We have a significant carbon footprint, including emissions produced in Scotland, and emissions in other countries making goods which we import. As a result, our environmental impact extends far beyond our own country. The nature of this impact is complex. Some of the commodities we import are associated with deforestation, water stress and other ecological pressures in different parts of the world.

To achieve this outcome, we will strive to ensure that Scotland lives within the sustainable limits of our single, shared planet; and, where we can, take actions which help to make the impact of our consumption and production on other countries sustainable. As a first step, we will gather evidence on the nature of Scotland's international environmental impact.



Back to top