First Minister's Environmental Council: first report, key priorities and future work programme

This is the first report by the First Minister’s Environmental Council. It notes Scotland’s ambitions and response to the twin crises, international examples of environmental action, and sets out the directions of the future work programme for the Council.

1. Overview

Responding to the global climate emergency and biodiversity crisis are two of the biggest drivers which will shape Scotland's society and economy over the coming decade. The same is true for all countries.

Tackling these crises is important in and of itself. Scotland's environment is an inherent part of its identity, and there is a strong moral case for ensuring that future generations inherit a planet with a healthy and diverse environment.[4] Tackling these crises in a just way is also fundamental to safeguarding Scotland's economic prosperity and wellbeing. Scotland's economy is embedded within nature, and a healthy natural environment is a prerequisite for broader societal wellbeing.

Scotland is well placed to respond to these challenges and has a long history of innovation and scientific excellence. From the Enlightenment through to the Industrial Revolutions, Scotland has played a key role in shaping the modern world through science, invention and innovation. This has continued into the present day, and the country is home to many world class universities and scientists and continues to lead world class innovation, for instance the International Barley Hub[5] funded as part of the Tay Cities Deal Development Programme and Intelligent Growth Systems vertical farming solutions that offer a smart system that can be built for any environment anywhere in the world[6].

Scotland's geography also presents a range of opportunities for responding to the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Over recent years, Scotland's energy sector has been transformed by the deployment of renewable energy, particularly onshore wind. In the years to come Scotland's natural environment offers many opportunities for responding to the challenges that Scotland faces whether it be through the expansion of woodlands to support carbon sequestration or through offshore renewable energy and sustainable aquaculture. As a country with a large land area and rich marine and renewable resources, Scotland has potential to be a global pioneer in tackling this crises and hence a model to other nations.

Even with its inherent advantages, Scotland is facing a number of challenges as it tackles these twin crises. The government's response will have wider ranging implications as Scotland transitions to a net zero, climate resilient, adapted and nature positive economy. It is key that the policy decisions that inform this transformation are supported by robust advice, and the Scottish Government has a suite of advisory bodies to support this[7]. The First Minister's Environmental Council will support and enhance this advisory landscape by advising the government on international best practice and how Scotland can be at the forefront of tackling the climate emergency and ecological decline. It will have a particular focus on biodiversity, marine resources, waste, and the nature-based aspects of climate change and the Just Transition.

The Council is co-chaired by the First Minister and Professor Sir Ian Boyd and comprises environmental experts from around the world, spanning science, advocacy, governance and policy. A full list of members is provided in Annex 1.

This report has been published to coincide with the Council's first full meeting. It outlines the current policy landscape in Scotland, emerging issues, case studies of international best practice and sets out the broad directions for the Council's work programme for the coming years. Further information about the Council is available on the Scottish Government website[8].



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