Nature needs: a response to the State of Nature reports

 

On 13 October, the State of Nature Partnership, part of LINK’s Wildlife Forum launched a new report. This is the speech I gave at that launch.

In 2013, the State of Nature partnership, part of LINK’s Wildlife Forum, published the State of Nature report for Scotland. Here in Scotland, 54% of flowering plants are in decline adn 28% of these are in severe decline. Nature is in trouble. As an NGO community, our response was of course to ask, what can we do about that? Here, I’ll outline what we’ve concluded could and should be done, and how we have reached those conclusions – but first, let me outline why this is important.

First, we believe that we have a duty to look after our world, including its nature, for future generations. Besides these intrinsic values – making sure that our children’s children can pick wild flowers and hold snail races – nature has other ‘basic’ values. It is crucial to our quality of life and to the planet’s life support systems.

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As a community of NGOs, naturally, we care about nature. We, and our supporters, want to see it protected and restored. More than that, we and our supporters, want to see the global biodiversity targets for 2020, endorsed and agreed by the Scottish Government, met in full.

So, how did we go about answering the question: “what can we do about it?”

We adopted a scientifically based approach to build consensus amongst experts and identify robust predictions. We were thus able to identify 8 core needs for nature – 6 ecological needs, eg special places and 2 social needs, eg more support, more fans. What we didn’t do was sit in a closed room and generated a random list. Instead we were keen to use an inclusive and structured approach.

The result is 2 reports: an online technical report detailing the approach and consultations from all 4 countries of the UK and 4 summary reports, launched simultaneously in Edinburgh, London, Cardiff and Belfast on 13 October.

What did we conclude?
There are 10 key issues where we’d like to see progress from Government. You need to read the report for all ten. In summary however, nature needs:
1. An inspiring vision – in Scotland, we have a route map to 2020, and that is only 5 years away. It’s good next step BUT we need a longer term and more ambitious vision, and one that truly inspires more than just the people in this room, and the people we work with to act now.
2. Full implementation and defence of current nature legislation – the Scottish Parliament has, over the last decade passed some excellent legislation – the Nature Conservation, Marine and Water Environment Acts to name a few – but none is implemented or enforced as vigorously as they might be and this is undermining efforts. What’s more, we, in Scotland, must play our part in defending legislation such as the EU Nature Directives from attacks by those with a de-regulatory agenda.
3. A network of well-managed special places: In Scotland, we have a network of designated sites. These need to be better understood and appreciated, better managed and more joined-up. A good start is the acknowledgement of this in the National Planning Framework and the 2020 Route Map, but this acknowledgement must be turned into delivery.
4. Species safeguarded and restored: Species are not just colourful characters, incidental to some wider ecosystem service. Instead they are the building blocks of our ecosystems. Without them, we have no services – no clean water, no food, no clean air. We need them and we need proper monitoring and targeted action for those that are of conservation concern. We have a list in the Scottish Biodiversity List– we need to act on that list.
5. Improved access to justice for nature: nature can’t “speak for itself”. We need to enable citizens, communities and representative NGOs to seek reviews of decisions by Government and other state bodies whenever those decisions impact on the environment. This isn’t just about compliance with Aarhus (although that would also be true), it’s about an empowered public, who are connected with and appreciating nature.
6. Improved incentives for land managers: Sustainable and High Nature Value farming and forestry systems support biodiversity and people. We could have so much more in Scotland. With the right incentives, these systems could not only be more widespread but provide a genuine underpinning for the marketing of our “green, clean” produce. Without this approach, are we really as green and clean as we think we are?

Finally, while this report focuses on the action we need from Government, we recognise that while Government is crucial as the representative of the state, able pass/enforce legislation and/or allocate taxpayers’ resources, it needs to be supported by civil society. We have included pledges that we – as NGOs – will make our contributions to the joint effort.

We pledge to:
• Inspire
• Work with land mangers to make space for nature
• Work with government
• Give regular, scientifically robust updates on the State of Nature (there will be another one along soon)
• Support our citizen scientists
• Speak up for nature. Nature can’t do it but we can and we will.

We pledge to do all we can to ensure that Scotland’s nature is not forgotten, taken for granted or exploited.

What can you do?
• Have a look at the report.
• Talk to all of us behind it
• Work out what you can do
• Work out what others can do
• Remember: we are all in this together. Others have used that phrase and not really meant it. We really do mean it. We are all in this together.

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