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

30 Aug 2023

The introduction of legal targets for nature recovery can serve as the turning point for threatened species and habitats, environmental charities have said.  

The Scottish Government has committed to introducing statutory nature recovery targets in the upcoming Natural Environment Bill. A consultation is expected imminently.  

This would put nature recovery on the same legal basis as climate change, where the government is already required to meet legal targets for emissions reductions. 

A new report by the environmental coalition Scottish Environment LINK has outlined how these targets could function in practice.  

The report argues that legal targets must set out to achieve both a reversal of current negative trends and an effective regeneration of biodiversity in relation to past and historic losses, with a clear date for achievement and milestones leading to that date.  

As well as statutory targets, a new Natural Environment Bill will set out a framework for new legislation to support the delivery of Scottish Government’s commitments to conserve 30% of land for nature by 2030, strengthen the powers of Scotland’s national parks and drive a sustainable reduction in deer numbers. 

The report proposes that targets cover key indicators of species abundance, distribution, and extinction risk, as well as targets to cover habitat quality and ecosystem resilience. LINK also proposes targets to tackle the drivers of biodiversity decline. 

The twin crises of climate change and nature loss are linked and we must tackle them together. Restoring nature will reduce carbon emissions, and tackling the climate crisis is essential if we are to prevent extinctions.   

Bruce Wilson, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: 

“Our natural world is in trouble, and the challenges we face today – most notably climate change – come on top of high levels of historic nature loss.  

“Legal targets can mark the turning point for Scotland’s threatened species and habitats. As we have seen with climate change, putting targets in law can help drive change across all parts of government and the economy.  

“Getting those targets right is vital. There is not one simple metric that captures the complexity of the natural world, but fundamentally we do understand the problems we face – and how to fix them.  

“This is an incredible opportunity to put Scotland on the path to nature recovery.” 


Read the summary report 

Image: Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

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