Scottish schools must teach biodiversity, experts say
Biodiversity should be added to the curriculum and schools should ensure pupils have access to green spaces on schoolgrounds, a senior member of Scotland’s nature agency has said.
Eileen Stuart, deputy director of nature and climate change at NatureScot, said access to nature must be seen as a right and that schools could play a key role in widening access.
She made the call at Holyrood’s COP26 fringe festival.
It follows the UK government unveiling a new climate change curriculum for schools in England, as well as encouraging schools to improve biodiversity and meet net-zero heating and hot water targets.
Emily Benson, of the Green Economy Coalition, told the Holyrood event that introducing such measures would help improve society’s connection with nature.
She said: “Internationally, so many communities live intrinsically connected to nature, and we see it with our children here, so it seems to be something innate that is unlearned in the UK. We need to get back to that innate connection.”
And Wouter van Tol of DS Smith pointed to work his company was doing with the Ellen Macarthur Foundation on school engagement programmes. He added: “I'm very hopeful that if we put climate change and the circular economy into the curriculum, it will have an effect.”
The panel also discussed how businesses can meet their climate obligations and there were calls to move away from only measuring carbon.
Benson warned it led to companies relying on offsetting measures rather than changing their approach.
She said: “We need to see offsets as the last resort, when you've done everything else within your business model to mitigate and reduce your impact on nature... Even then, it's a dangerous game. I have huge worries about it.”
There were concerns that the biodiversity crisis was being ignored in favour of action on emissions, but the panel agreed the two were heavily linked.
Chair Prof James Curran said: “There is absolutely no separation - the ‘net’ element of ‘net-zero’ is reliant on biodiversity; it is reliant on nature being able to balance and cope with carbon emissions.”