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by Bruce Wilson, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Scottish Wildlife Trust
08 September 2023
Associate Feature: Prioritising nature's recovery: Safeguarding society and economy in Scotland

Puffin (Fratercula arctica) © Alexander Mustard/2020Vision

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Associate Feature: Prioritising nature's recovery: Safeguarding society and economy in Scotland

Nature is part of Scotland’s identity; and yet scientists and government agree that our natural world is in serious decline. This ecological degradation is nothing new. It has been going on, at scale, for decades. Urgent action is now needed to reverse this trend and to protect our natural world not just for the sake of wildlife, but also for our communities and wider economy. Not doing so would be nothing short of reckless. 

Our collective experience with climate messaging tells us that weight of scientific evidence alone is insufficient to influence the pace and scale of change required. And while it is undeniable that our very existence is dependent on nature, even that is not enough. 

Instead, proposals for protecting the natural world must be presented in a way that engages people positively, and which are relevant on an individual level. One way to achieve this is to highlight the huge benefits that nature restoration brings not only to wildlife but also to economies and to society.  

Published in 2021, the Dasgupta Review on The Economics of Biodiversity highlighted how “we have collectively failed to engage with nature sustainably, to the extent that our demands far exceed its capacity to supply us with the goods and services we all rely on”. As a result, our ecosystems are buckling under the pressure.

The call to action on nature must extend beyond the realm of conservationists and environmentalists. It is imperative that everyone understands the interdependence between ecological health, economic prosperity and quality of life. 

Neglecting to act for nature now will lead to severe consequences for future generations. Conversely, swift action will result in a more sustainable society, economy and environment as well as save huge sums of money over the long term. 

Despite the innate value of nature – every job in every sector is 100% reliant upon functioning ecosystems to support them – policies and legislation to date have fallen short of halting ecological decline. 

This failure necessitates an urgent transformation in how we approach the biodiversity crisis. Thankfully, there has been a shift in global ambition – as reflected in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed at CoP15. It is a framework that must now translate into action and tangible results. 

Setting meaningful targets is essential for driving the transformational change that is required. The relative success of the net zero emissions targets in focusing the minds of government in tackling the climate emergency demonstrates how setting targets can mainstream and prioritise an issue. 

The Scottish Government’s commitment to introducing statutory targets in the forthcoming Natural Environment Bill is a vital step forward. But targets must exist within an enabling framework that incorporates effective monitoring, reporting, accountability, funding and finance mechanisms. Only with such a framework in place can we deliver on our commitments. 

It is equally important that the proposed targets, and the enabling framework of legislation, be open to a wide range of stakeholders’ input. This inclusive approach will lead to a closer understanding of the challenges and opportunities, and result in more effective policies. 

Now, almost midway through the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the introduction of the Natural Environment Bill in Scotland is an opportunity for a paradigm shift, equipping us with a powerful tool with which to protect ecosystems and unlock the green economy. 

In collaboration with other members of  Scottish Environment LINK, the Scottish  Wildlife Trust has produced a paper that identifies a list of key elements that we believe must be included in the new Bill. We look forward to  discussing them with policy makers over  the coming weeks and months.

This article is sponsored by Scottish Wildlife Trust 

Legal targets for nature recovery can mark turning point for threatened species - Scotlink

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