Two thirds of Scots support ambitious “30 by 30” target to protect nature

05 Dec 2022

People living in Scotland overwhelmingly back plans to protect 30% of the country’s land and sea for nature by the end of the decade, a new opinion poll has found.

The global “30 by 30” target, expected to be agreed at the upcoming UN biodiversity conference COP15 in December, sets out to protect 30% of the world’s land and sea in response to the catastrophic decline in nature.

Scotland has historically suffered from a high level of nature loss, but more recent research shows that we are still losing nature today and 1 in 9 species are at risk of national extinction.(1)

Research conducted by Survation has found that 66% of respondents support the 30 by 30 approach being adopted in Scotland, with only 13% opposed. Excluding “don’t knows”, 84% of those who expressed an opinion were in favour of the target.

The findings come as a new report by Scottish Environment LINK outlines the steps necessary to make the 30 by 30 pledge deliver for nature’s recovery.

Currently around 18% of Scotland’s land is legally protected for nature, such as through designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest and European sites. However, not all of these places are working as well as they should be, with data showing that the condition of protected areas has not significantly improved over the past 15 years.

Scottish Environment LINK says that, as well as increasing the coverage and quantity of protected areas, and exploring new ways to protect land for nature, it is the quality of our best nature sites that is vital to make the 30×30 target effective, and a strategic programme of active management and restoration of these places is required.  

The coalition of environmental charities is calling for:

  • Robust criteria to be applied to decide what counts to the 30%
  • New targets and a strategic programme to improve the condition of protected areas
  • Long-term funding to support robust monitoring and management of species and habitats
  • The introduction of Nature Recovery Zones within our National Parks

Isobel Mercer of RSPB Scotland, and lead author of the Scottish Environment LINK report, commented:

“Nature is in trouble. In Scotland, nearly 50% of species have declined in abundance since 1994 and we need action now to reverse this trend before it is too late.

“Protected areas are the frontline of defence for nature against growing pressures from human activity and climate change. The evidence is clear that wildlife does better where protections are put in place.

“The global target to protect 30% of land and sea by the end of this decade is a major opportunity for reversing nature loss. The focus must be maximising benefits for nature rather than drawing lines on a map.

“The public clearly recognise that an ambitious approach is needed in this decade – we must make sure that the delivery of 30 by 30 meets those expectations.”

Alistair Whyte of Plantlife Scotland, Convener of the LINK Wildlife Group, added:

“A healthy natural environment is essential for our health and wellbeing, and protected areas are one of the most important tools we have.

“Increasing the level of protection to encompass 30% of Scottish territory is ambitious. It is also essential.

“We are in the midst of climate and nature emergencies and we must act now to protect nature before its too late.”


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