The world faces the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. Globally, nationally and locally an enormous effort is needed to tackle these closely linked issues. As we move from the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity to the beginning of the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, with preparations being made for the Convention on Biological Diversity's Conference of the Parties 15 to be held in 2021, this is an appropriate time to reflect and set out our broad intentions on how we will approach the development of a new post-2020 Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.
The new UN Decade signals the massive effort needed and it is
"…a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems around the world, for the benefit of people and nature… Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people's livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity."
UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration
The Scottish Government embraces this vision wholeheartedly. We have already played a special part in international negotiations on the new global biodiversity framework by leading the Edinburgh Process, including publishing The Edinburgh Declaration – a call to action to the world's governments at all levels.
The Declaration calls for "…strong and bold actions to bring about transformative change… to halt biodiversity loss." That encapsulates our ambition. International reports have emphasised the urgent need for transformative change to address the scale and extent of biodiversity losses. At scale and at pace, and reaching into every aspect of life and enterprise, we have to change how we interact with and care for nature.
The twin global crises of biodiversity loss and climate change require us to work with nature to secure a healthier planet. Our Climate Change Plan update outlines new, boosted and accelerated policies, putting us on a pathway to our ambitious climate change targets and to deliver a range of co-benefits including for biodiversity. The way we use land and sea has to simultaneously enable the transition to net zero as part of a green economic recovery, adapt to a changing climate and improve the state of nature. This is an unprecedented tripartite challenge.
The devastating impact of COVID-19 has highlighted our need to be far more resilient to pandemics and other 'shocks' which may arise from degraded nature. Our Programme for Government and Climate Change Plan update set out steps we will take to support a green recovery. This places nature at the heart of securing greater economic, social and environmental resilience and prosperity. Research now suggests that the imbalance between nature and people which drives ecological decline and climate change, was also behind this pandemic. Resilience of all kinds depends on healthy nature.
In these challenging times, it is more important than ever that we focus on designing a better future for ourselves and for future generations. We are committed to delivering a just, fair and green recovery from this pandemic. Nature-based jobs make an enormous contribution to our economy. Green skills are wide ranging and will be vital to delivering our ambitions across a variety of sectors - from nature-based tourism to land and environmental management, forestry, green finance, peatland restoration and low carbon farming. Our Programme for Government includes a focus on supporting and encouraging these new jobs, which will provide Scotland with the skills and expertise to be at the forefront of tackling the twin crises of climate change and ecological decline.
Nature-based solutions such as woodland restoration and creation, peatland restoration, urban green infrastructure regeneration, and a great range of marine, coastal, agricultural, wetland, river and upland enterprises all use nature to help tackle environmental and social challenges. These provide benefits to people and nature. They help us to mitigate and adapt to climate change, tackle flooding and improve water quality – and of course benefit biodiversity. That is why we are ramping up and committing to multiyear investments with £250 million over 10 years on peatland restoration and an additional £150 million over the next five years in forestry to support the economy and our net zero goal. Meanwhile, the pandemic has also reminded many of the solace and comfort to be found in nature and the proven health benefits of spending time outdoors.
Protecting and enhancing biodiversity is devolved and Scottish Ministers have committed to:
'raise the bar of global leadership … look afresh at everything that we do and …look to ensure that our actions produce the transformative change that is needed.'
'This will inform a step change in our programme of work to address biodiversity loss.'
First Minister's Questions, 9 May 2019
Our Environment Strategy envisioned that, "by 2045, we will have transformed our country and secured the wellbeing of our people and planet through restoring nature and ending our contribution to climate change."
This Statement of Intent represents another step towards that better future.