Educating the next generation and engaging communities across Scotland about the importance of our wildlife, nature and environment are critically important if we are to halt biodiversity loss according to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee.
Amid a failure by Scotland and other European countries to meet biodiversity targets in 2010, the Committee has today urged the Scottish Government to revise their proposed biodiversity strategy and to act on recommendations the Committee has made.
Committee Convener Rob Gibson MSP said:
“It is admirable that challenging Europe-wide targets have been set to try and halt biodiversity loss. However, it is important that Scotland has a strategy in place that will deliver the progress needed.
“After hearing from those working on the ground, our Committee has found that there was a lack of understanding about where responsibility for delivering on biodiversity lies. This and other key issues such as educating the next generation about our wildlife and engaging communities across Scotland to get involved with nature must be addressed in the final strategy.
“Our biodiversity is constantly under threat – from climate change to non-native species and the constant balancing act of preserving our natural environment with the often competing pressures on our land.
“Preserving our wildlife is important not only for nature’s sake but because of the significant benefits that a thriving environment can bring, including health, economic and social benefits.”
The Committee took evidence from a number of stakeholders in order to make recommendations on the Scottish Government’s proposed biodiversity strategy: 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity.
Outlined in a letter sent to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, the Committee has made the following recommendations to the Scottish Government’s proposed strategy:
- Accessibility and public engagement. The Committee raised concerns that approximately 75 per cent of the population do not know what biodiversity means. The overall view was that we need to make this more understandable and encourage the wider public to actively engage with nature. The Committee recommends the Scottish Government ensures its final strategy includes greater detail on ways to engage the wider public in as many different aspects of wildlife, plants and habitats as possible, including through local centres and schools and with partners in the business and voluntary sectors.
- Education. It is evident to the Committee that making outdoor learning and nature an integral part of the Curriculum, both in primary and secondary schools, is crucial to the success of future work to protect and enhance Scotland’s wildlife and environment. In particular more should be done to encourage and maintain an interest in nature in secondary schools.
- Mainstreaming. The Committee agrees that biodiversity policy should be embedded across all Scottish Government departments to provide a lead for business, industry and society to follow. Stakeholders also raised concerns about the level of active engagement of many local authorities in biodiversity. The Committee recommends that further detail on how the biodiversity duties of public bodies will be met is reflected in the final strategy.
- Restoration of degraded ecosystems. The Committee recommends that the restoration of degraded ecosystems is clearly addressed in the final strategy.
- Marine and seabird issues. The Committee heard that marine biodiversity is coming under increased pressure from various threats. The Committee plans to monitor the designation of Marine Protected Areas along with the on-going work on the National Marine Plan and will seek updates from the Minister.
- Land management. The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government take into account the importance of ensuring appropriate advice is readily available to land managers.
- Neonicotinoids. The Committee shares the concerns raised by stakeholders about the use of neonicotinoids and welcomes the seriousness with which the Scottish Government also views the issue. This is an issue the Committee will continue to monitor closely.
- Invasive non-native species. One of the main areas of concern expressed to the Committee is the issue of invasive non-native species. It heard from stakeholders that they believe biosecurity and prevention of invasive non-native species arriving in this country and preventing movement of species once they have been identified is key to reducing the impact they have both on our biodiversity and on our economy.
- Monitoring and targets. The Committee believes that targets in the biodiversity strategy should be clear and achievable and roles and responsibilities for delivery should be clear and unambiguous. The Committee would welcome an annual update on progress in implementing the strategy which should include information on any changes that are required in order to meet the targets.
The Scottish Government published their consultation on their biodiversity strategy: 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity in July.
This 2020 Challenge is Scotland’s response to the European Union’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2020 and the ‘Aichi Targets’ set by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
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