This is the fifth Progress Report to the Scottish Parliament on the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. I am grateful to Scottish Natural Heritage and other specialist staff in our public bodies for their work in preparing the report and, together with colleagues across the public, private and third sectors, in working to deliver the 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity.
When I wrote to the Parliament's Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee in December 2019 on the Global Biodiversity Assessment published earlier that year by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), governments around the world were focused on the twin global crises of climate change and biodiversity loss and preparing for 2020 to host international conferences on biodiversity, in Kunming, China, and on climate change, in Glasgow. Those events have been postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and governments have had to focus attention and resource on taking comprehensive action to save lives and to map out a route to restart and recovery. Whatever we may yet learn about the connections between global biodiversity loss and the risk of zoonotic pandemics, it is sobering to reflect on the impact of the ongoing global health crisis on human health.
We remain committed to tackling biodiversity loss and climate change and to seizing the opportunity – the necessity – to do things differently as we emerge from the COVID19 pandemic. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that the benefits people derive from nature are recognised and protected. Wherever possible we must identify ways in which we can address both climate change and biodiversity loss together, since they are so clearly interlinked. This work will play a key part in our 'green recovery' and in our endeavour to create a more resilient environment in which we and nature may prosper to mutual benefit. Nature-based solutions founded on investing in activity such as peatland restoration, woodland creation, sustainable management of the seas and coast and revived greenspace offer great prospects for revival.
I set out in detail in my letter to Committee last December the range of activities, initiatives and investments we are undertaking across our public sector and wider society to address biodiversity loss – I must thank all of those engaged in that work, and those who have contributed to this report. I also acknowledged that we must do more. In Scotland, as in much of the world, we have spent hundreds of years shaping and reshaping our natural environment to support our lives and our families, and we will continue to do so. It is not, therefore, going to be straightforward, or quick, to deliver substantial improvements. But with every year that passes we understand more about living more sustainably with nature, and the indicators reported here are a crucial part of understanding that picture.
It is clear that we know a lot about what we can do to protect our biodiversity – and our analysis of the possible policy pathways proposed by the IPBES Global Assessment demonstrates that we are doing many of the right things already. We are developing a more circular economy; coherent networks of protected areas on land and in our seas; tackling pollution; and preventing the arrival of non-native invasive species. We have published The Environment Strategy for Scotland: vision and outcomes, and are participating actively with the Convention on Biological Diversity and sub-national governments to influence the development of a new international Global Biodiversity Framework.
And so, in summary, these are challenging times, but I am optimistic for the future, for people and for nature, in Scotland and around the world, provided that we hold fast to the path that we have started to map out and proceed in partnership and collaboration.
Roseanna Cunningham MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
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