Planet, humanity and citizenship: the 3 pillars of the SCVO blueprint for the future

20 Feb 2020

A blog by Deborah Long, LINK Chief Officer.

On Thursday 20 February, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) launched their manifesto for the future, offering a blueprint for action under 3 pillars of planet,  humanity and citizenship, and which recognises the need for a thriving, sustainable third sector, able to work together and with government to make the transformational changes we all require. SCVO is the national membership organisation for the third sector and provides a national voice to the sector and champions innovation and improvement. Environmental issues are clearly fundamental in addressing Scotland’s wellbeing and LINK works with SCVO to explore how those principles relate to all SCVO members and their work.

On Wednesday, the day before, the First Minister opened the SVCO Gathering, with panel of experts, who each described the scale of the challenge facing us under these 3 pillars. For the planet, I described the absolute need for everyone to work together if we are to restore and maintain a healthy planet where we all live and without which society cannot survive.

The fact of the matter is that we are in climate and nature emergencies: the two are inextricably linked. And progress for one should result in progress for the other. Action for climate should definitely not act against action for nature: this is where nature solutions to climate change are so important because they respond to both emergencies. We can and must take action now: the First Minister has made that very clear. And there are a number of things we can do right now. Here are just a few examples:

Carbon sequestration, that is storing carbon in nature systems – we need to do more of that by restoring peatlands so they store carbon and water in times of excessive rainfall; woodland regeneration – not just planting where commercial sitka plantations in the wrong place causes declines in biodiversity but more native woodland, most easily addressed through the management of wild deer population so that trees can regenerate and not be eaten off; and blue carbon – enabling marine systems to store carbon – for example kelp dredging – removes a key habitat both for nursery fish stocks but also key protection against storms like Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis. What’s more we should be managing our land with nature in mind so it can survive and thrive across the landscape. And we need to practice a much more circular economy: from energy to plastics, we need to use less and waste nothing.

To get there, we need a global change in mindset that rebalances economic success with environmental protection and restoration. Today’s preoccupation with economic development and GDP as a measure of success is what is leading to the climate and nature emergencies and needs to stop.

We are very fortunate to live in Scotland: we have a fantastic environment prized across the world, we have a benign climate (even though it doesn’t always feel like it), and we have amazing nature. We want it to stay that way for future generations. But for that happen we need to work together. This is a tough call and the only practical solution is for us to work together to halt the loss of nature and to prevent irrevocable climate change. Our future well being – of Scotland’s people – depends on a healthy environment where people and nature can thrive. You can’t have one without the other. That’s why the manifesto goals, for immediate action before 2030 are so important. They sit alongside objectives that we at LINK have identified to deliver the real change we need to see if we are to address the climate and nature emergencies. LINK’s objectives, outlined in our new strategy, 2020 – 2024, identifies 7 key areas where we need to make immediate progress:

1. Provide environmental leadership: LINK and its members are ready to provide the leadership and vision required for the transformations required
2. From rhetoric to reality: Scotland has some world leading environmental legislation and the ambition to do more: we need to implement that legislation to make real progress
3. Land use that is nature and climate friendly
4. A circular economy with zero emissions
5. All major infrastructure projects deliver for biodiversity, climate and society, with cumulative impacts mapped and audited
6. The 4 environmental principles that will lost from law under Brexit are embedded in Scottish legislation. These are the precautionary principle, polluter pays principle, rectification at source principle and the preventative action principle
7. A Green Deal that delivers a fair and just transition where the impact of change required is spread fairly across society and on those with most resilience and capacity

The intergovernmental panels on biodiversity and on climate change have both said, independently and on independent evidence bases, that we have roughly a decade to make the scale of changes required. We need to act now.

Above all, if together we are to secure a sustainable future for Scotland, we must ensure that all activity in Scotland is measured against environmental outputs – if we continue to trash the planet and go on as we are, future generations stand to inherit a much poorer place than we currently enjoy and which we know is under huge stress.

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