Petition (Ecological Emergency)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th March 2020.

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Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

1. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to a recent petition calling on the First Minister to declare an ecological emergency. (S5O-04236)

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Tackling loss of biodiversity ranks alongside climate change in importance, and our actions are designed to address those twin issues in tandem, wherever possible—for example, through the £250 million investment in peatland restoration over the next 10 years.

The programme for government announced an extension to the biodiversity challenge fund of £2 million, which increased to £3 million in the budget, and totals £5 million overall since 2018-19. However, that is only a small part of the estimated £98 million that we spend on biodiversity each year in Scotland.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

The petition has been started by young environmental campaigner Holly Gillibrand.

It is a pity that it seems to be highly unlikely that we will meet our Aichi biodiversity targets this year, especially given the importance to Scotland of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Does the cabinet secretary acknowledge a correlation between the missed targets, the

“fivefold drop in official monitoring” by Scottish Natural Heritage over the past decade and the significant reduction in funding for SNH since 2007?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I do not think that it is possible to draw a line as Claudia Beamish is trying to do.

The Aichi targets are challenging, but our meeting seven out of 20 compares favourably with the global picture, which is that there has been progress on only four of the 20 targets. Yes—there is a great deal more to do in Scotland, but we are already doing a great deal more than most other countries in the world.

SNH makes decisions about how it manages its budget on the basis of its own professionalism. I think that, from SNH’s perspective, it is not doing anything that would in any way damage our ability to try as best we can to meet the targets.

We are not complacent: we know that a lot more needs to be done. The conference in April—we are currently attempting to turn it into an online conference, for reasons that I need not go into—is part of that and part of our global commitment to the work.

Photo of David Torrance David Torrance Scottish National Party

Climate change is a key driver of biodiversity loss. What measures are there in the environmental strategy to create and restore natural habitats?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

The environmental strategy sets out the links between the crises of climate and nature, which I mentioned. Climate change is a key driver of biodiversity loss, and healthy natural habitats play a vital role in removing carbon from the atmosphere.

The resilience of the natural environment in the face of the changing climate is a key element of our adaptations programme. Our focus is on the most effective and complementary policies to address the climate and nature crises, which is why I keep mentioning the amount of money that we are putting into peatland restoration, which delivers multiple benefits.

Other nature-based solutions are incredibly important. For example, tree planting and protecting and enhancing our sea beds are key parts of the dual plan to address climate change and biodiversity loss.