Scottish Environment LINK welcomes today’s Programme for Government outlined by the First Minister (7 September). As we embark on the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration, the need to tackle the global climate and nature emergency is urgent. Two major UN reports (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC and Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services IPBES) have very clearly stated the need for immediate and effective action to limit global temperature rises to 1.5oC and to restore biodiversity. With the State of Nature report showing one in nine species in danger of extinction in the country and our biodiversity intactness index 28th from the bottom globally, Scotland clearly needs to act now.
This Parliamentary session is crucial. With only nine years of the decade that IPCC and IPBES say is left for us to act, this Programme for Government in 2021 is vital and must be transformational. That means we need to see immediate, determined and demonstrable action. The commitment to protect our land and marine environments for generations to come, reversing ecological decline and delivering nature-based solutions to climate change is central to this transformation.
We warmly welcome the commitment to nature targets: targets help guide action and enable everyone to play their part in nature restoration. The proposed Biodiversity Strategy and Natural Environment Bill must provide a direction of travel, led by government, to bring immediate progress towards those targets from 2021. In addition, the commitment to designate 10% of our seas as highly protected is very welcome and alongside commitment for nature networks on land and at sea, this could be transformational.
Today’s commitments, welcome as they are, must be fully resourced and we look forward to the Government’s budget for the detail on that. The scale and urgency of today’s situation cannot be underestimated. It needs adequate multi annual funding at scale: this is too big a task for government alone but by committing to multi-year funding at an adequate level, government shows the necessary leadership and enables others to come alongside. We welcome the commitment to £500 million for nature restoration. This is roughly half of what we estimate will be required from Government over the course of this Parliament to meet the scale of the challenge ahead. Where this is matched by £1 billion from philanthropic sources and another from green financing, and where agricultural support delivers for nature and climate, while continuing to produce food, Scotland has a chance to begin to see the level of action needed.
For this transformation to take place at all, legislation is also required. The commitment to the Good Food Nation Bill this year is welcome. While it offers the opportunity for Scotland to become a leader on nature and climate friendly food production, increasing access to all to high quality, low food miles and healthy food, it must deliver demonstrable progress. With other key pieces of legislation, including for example Natural Environment, Circular Economy, deer and grouse moor management, planned for later in the Parliamentary term, we will be calling for speedier non legislative action. The 2022 grouse and muirburn season, for example, should not open without licencing in place if we are serious about halting the loss of biodiversity in our uplands.
A Circular Economy bill is key to transforming the way we run our businesses and generating our livelihoods way into the future and needs to bring early determined action with demonstrable progress to targets being met. Given the direction of travel could be set immediately, we look forward to updates on a bottle deposit scheme and a ban on non-essential single use plastics, which can already be implemented without new legislation.
We are assessing this Programme for Government against our 5 tests for a green recovery and will report the results on that shortly. The announced Covid Recovery Bill offers the opportunity for Government to apply its own tests to assess how green Scotland’s recovery is and we look forward to seeing the Scottish Government take up this opportunity.
Programme for Government 2021-22 (2021)
Biodiversity and climate change workshop report (2021): IPBS and IPCC
State of Nature Scotland (2019):
RSPB Biodiversity Intactness Index summary (2021)
£1 billion for nature conservation route map (2020) Scottish Wildlife Trust and Scottish Environment Protection Agency.