Considerable change needed to stop nature loss in Scotland

Meadow flowers. (photo: JHI)

CONSIDERABLE and rapid change across all aspects of society is needed to stop further nature loss in Scotland, a new report reveals.

Many of the direct causes of biodiversity loss are well-known such as pollution, climate change and land use change. Now a new report led by The James Hutton Institute, commissioned by NatureScot, says that tackling these direct causes is not enough.

It points to factors which are indirectly contributing to nature loss in Scotland including our culture, education, demography, economy, political systems and technology.

The report, also involving researchers at the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian University, identifies ways to reduce the impacts of some of these contributing factors to help us move towards a future where we are living more in harmony with nature. Government, public bodies, schools, businesses, individuals and communities are highlighted as having a lead role to play.

Recommendations include that policy makers and businesses move away from measuring performance based on levels of production and consumption and focus more on regenerative uses of the land and sea as part of a sustainable, circular economy. 

While this will require substantial adjustments, the report comments that these will be easier and less costly to people and businesses than passively adjusting to a worsening biodiversity and climate crisis.

Professor Robin Pakeman, senior report author at the Hutton, said: “A key conclusion I draw from this report is that the consequences of all of our actions, even apparently positive ones, can have global repercussions. These can be very complex to navigate. For example, replacing a forestry plantation with a native woodland could be seen as a win for biodiversity. However, where will the timber now come from?

“Effectively, ‘offshoring’ or pushing our impacts elsewhere where they cause even more problems, is a serious concern. There are many difficult choices, which can be made easier, as the report outlines. For example, we can reduce our use of unsustainable materials and cut energy consumption that degrades the natural world.”

NatureScot’s Director of Nature and Climate Change, Nick Halfhide said: “With the forthcoming consultation on the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity strategy to 2045: tackling the nature emergency, the importance of halting biodiversity loss by 2030 is laid bare. 

“Tackling these underlying contributions to nature loss will be essential for a just transition to a net zero and nature-rich economy, both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to increase resilience to the impacts of a changing climate. 

“This important report from the James Hutton Institute points to the wider challenges we face in reconciling the great range of policies and actions to achieve a thriving future for our natural environment, economy and wellbeing.”

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