Biodiversity strategy: consultation

Biodiversity is vital for us all and it is in crisis, globally and in Scotland, so we need to change the way we use natural resources. We are seeking views on how we should tackle the biodiversity crisis through a new biodiversity strategy which will drive this transformation.

1. Introduction

a. What Is biodiversity and why Is It Important?

Biodiversity is the variety of all living things and ecosystems. It includes plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms. It comprises the living organisms in a particular space, whether in a window-box, garden, park, meadow, river, loch, estuary, our oceans, sandy beaches or mountain tops.

It is this web of relationships between inter-dependent organisms and the environment which provides the benefits that people get from nature, such as food, medicines, fibre and other natural materials – all of the things we need to survive.

'Nature' includes 'biodiversity' and the processes underpinning it. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably but they are not precisely the same. In this document:

Biodiversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes they are part of; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

In other words, biodiversity is the part of nature that is alive, and includes every living thing on Earth. Nature is all the existing systems created at the same time as the earth, all the features, forces and processes, such as the weather, the sea and mountains.

Nature means all life on Earth (i.e. biodiversity), together with the geology, water, climate and all other inanimate components that comprise our planet.

Perhaps the best way to truly understand the importance of biodiversity is try to imagine what nature would look like without it.

Some of these things can seem quite distant but they are important for everyone – for our economic success, our society and our way of life. Biodiversity enables businesses to operate effectively, for example through pollination by insects, and resilient fishing stocks and productive seas which our fishing and aquaculture industries depend on; it prevents soil erosion, purifies water and helps prevent flooding; and it contributes to our wellbeing, providing recreation, relaxation and a sense of place.

Critically, biodiversity is central to our survival as a species. It is the diversity of living organisms which provides nature's resilience in the face of climate change. Globally around 50% of human-made CO2 emissions are removed from the atmosphere each year by our vegetation, oceans and soils. It is now accepted that we face twin reinforcing crises: a decline in biodiversity will exacerbate the climate crisis – and a changing climate will accelerate the rate of biodiversity loss. Biodiversity is the best chance we have to adapt to climate change and ensure continued provision of nature's services on which we all depend.

b. The Context

i. International Context

We are now well into the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. At COP26, the Scottish Government joined other nations in endorsing the Leaders Pledge for Nature: to reverse nature loss by 2030. However, the development of a new Global Biodiversity Framework, which will include a 2050 vision and a 2030 set of targets, has been delayed by ongoing postponements to the fifteenth Conference of Parties (CoP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Scottish Ministers are also committed to maintaining or exceeding EU environmental standards. In preparing our new Scottish biodiversity strategy, we will need to take close account of the global biodiversity framework and targets and the emerging EU Biodiversity Strategy.

ii. Scotland's Strategic Context

The Environment Strategy for Scotland creates the overarching framework for Scotland's strategies and plans on the environment and climate change. Its vision and outcomes describe our long-term ambitions for Scotland's environment and our role in tackling the global climate and nature crises. The vision states:

'By 2045 - By restoring nature and ending Scotland's contribution to climate change, our country is transformed for the better - helping to secure the wellbeing of our people and planet for generations to come.'

To achieve this vision, the Scottish Government and partners will focus collective efforts on delivering six outcomes, including:

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

In light of the delays to COP15, the Scottish Government published a Statement of Intent on biodiversity in December 2020 setting out our ambition to take strong action to tackle biodiversity loss. In that, we committed to publishing a new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy by the Autumn of 2022 to replace the existing strategy published in 2013.

The Scottish Government's Agriculture Vision: Sustainable and regenerative farming - next steps: statement sets out our ambition to be a leader in sustainable and regenerative farming. Our farmland is important for sustainable food production and the Vision recognises the need to meet the key outcomes of high quality food production, climate mitigation and adaptation, and nature restoration. It is important that we seek to deliver against all of these outcomes in a complementary manner.

The Scottish Government's Forestry Strategy 2019 – 2029 sets out our vision for forestry, where in 2070, Scotland will have more forests and woodlands, sustainably managed and better integrated with other land uses. We need to balance their key role sequestering 14% of Scotland's gross carbon emissions, with sustainable wood production to support a strong economy, and avoid importing more timber to meet our needs, and ensuring thriving nature, and healthy and flourishing communities.

The Scottish Government is committed to land reform on an ongoing basis. Many communities who own land make biodiversity central to their use and management of land assets. Furthermore, we have the world's first Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement ("the statement") which we are currently revising. We are currently considering responses to a recent consultation on the statement and revisions will reflect the importance of biodiversity. The Scottish Government is committed to a further land reform bill to be introduced by the end of 2023. Our proposals for that Bill reflect the role of land reform in contributing to the end of biodiversity loss, and we will shortly be publishing a consultation on our proposals.

Scotland's Blue Economy Vision recognises that our economies, livelihoods and well-being all depend on our most precious asset – nature – and that Scotland's marine ecosystems are healthy and functioning, with nature protected and activities managed using an ecosystem-based approach to ensure negative impacts on marine ecosystems are minimised and, where possible, reversed.

Sustainable practice will be supported through Scotland's Future Fisheries Management Strategy, the production of a new Vision for sustainable aquaculture and a blue economy action plan in 2022, and we will carefully manage offshore wind development, which has the potential to transform and provide clean energy production for Scotland, in addition to delivering a Highly Protected Marine Area programme to protect biodiversity and ecosystem function of at least 10% of Scotland's seas.

We are also committed to delivering the Scottish Wild Salmon Strategy to ensure the protection and recovery of Scottish Atlantic wild salmon populations.

The global use of natural resources has more than tripled since 1970 and continues to grow. Around four fifths of Scotland's carbon footprint comes from the products and services we manufacture, use and throw away. We also know that 90% of global biodiversity loss and water stress is caused by resource extraction and processing. Using resources sustainably is essential to tackling both the climate and nature crises. We have set out proposals for tackling this in our circular economy Route Map consultation and Circular Economy Bill consultation.

The new Scottish Biodiversity strategy will signal our ambitions to end biodiversity loss by 2030 and restore / regenerate biodiversity by 2045. It will ensure the conditions are in place to drive the transformation needed in the way we use and manage natural resources and provide a framework for prioritising and coordinating actions and investments.

The new biodiversity strategy is the starting point in a process which will lead into the development of rolling delivery plans and, through the introduction of a Natural Environment Bill, statutory nature restoration targets.

c. The Consultation

This consultation forms part of an engagement process with a wide range of stakeholders who have an interest in Scotland's biodiversity, including land managers, environmental organisations, local authorities and other partners. We held a series of workshops to scope out the detail of the strategy, develop ideas and test concepts. We now want to hear the views of a wider range of organisations and individuals to test and further develop our ideas.

The rest of this document is set out as follows:

  • The Evidence: a short section setting out the evidence of biodiversity loss both globally and in Scotland
  • Our Strategic Vision
  • How Will We Know When We Have Succeeded:
    • high level milestones for the strategy
    • an outline of the outcomes approach we have developed to help us think about what we need to do to get to what we want to achieve
    • indicative outcomes for 2045 and 2030 milestones
  • Conditions for Success: what do we need to put in place to ensure that we deliver the outcomes we want

Questions designed to get your views on our thinking are included after each section.



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