Broad welcome for climate change target

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There has been a widespread welcome for the Scottish Government’s new programme for government, Protecting Scotland’s Future.

The programme focuses strongly on climate change and includes a raft of measures to achieve progress towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.

Among those voicing support for the programme are Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the John Muir Trust, the RSPB and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT).

SNH chief executive Francesca Osowska said: ‘The First Minister has laid out clearly that improving our biodiversity is key to tackling the climate emergency, and this commitment to protect and enhance nature crucially recognises this.

‘The latest announcement of £2 million in funding for the Biodiversity Challenge Fund marks another important step forward in the investment and activity we’ve seen in the public, private and third sectors.

‘Acknowledging our critical role in peatland restoration, plans to phase out the use of horticultural peat by increasing the use of alternatives will help scale up our efforts and keep carbon locked in what are some of the world’s deepest peat deposits.

‘SNH’s role will be critical as we go forward, working to improve our natural environment – a challenge we must tackle with vital support from our partners as we do all we can to meet international targets.’

Jo Pike from the SWT said: ‘Urgent action is needed to tackle the closely intertwined climate and ecological emergencies. We believe that greater investment in nature, alongside concerted action to decarbonise our economy, is needed to ensure that Scotland lives up to the ambition to cut emissions to net-zero by 2045 and reverse the loss of biodiversity.

‘Scotland’s wildlife is under greater pressure than ever before, so it is encouraging to see the government talk about a step change in its efforts to address biodiversity loss. However, funding to help restore damaged peatlands and accelerate tree planting across the country is only a first step in delivering the natural solutions that are vital to addressing the twin emergencies.

‘Our marine environment has a major part to play in combating climate change. We look forward to the publication of research into the role that our marine environment can play by acting as a store of blue carbon. We also welcome the repeated commitment to bring forward a national deep sea marine reserve, as well as a number of measures to improve the management of inshore fisheries.’

The John Muir Trust praised the sense of urgency in the programme and the recognition that the global climate emergency requires a broad range of carbon reduction initiatives across various sectors, including land use, forestry, agriculture, transport and building standards as well as energy generation.

Mike Daniels from the Trust said: ‘This programme recognises that we need to go beyond a narrow emphasis on generating more green energy, important though that is.

‘As an organisation which owns and manages significant areas of land in the Highlands, and which works with a number of community landowners, we are especially interested in natural solutions to climate change.

‘We welcome increased forestry funding for tree planting but would call on the Scottish Government to ensure that at least 50 per cent of all new woodland consists of native and broad-leaved species, which enrich the biodiversity of rural and even urban land, enhance the landscape and provide recreational opportunities.’

The Trust, which runs the popular John Muir Award scheme, also welcomed the statement in Protecting Scotland’s Future: ‘Providing opportunities to enjoy the outdoors is also essential to our wellbeing and that of future generations.

Aedan Smith from RSPB Scotland added: ‘We welcome the recognition that biodiversity loss and the climate emergency are intimately bound together.

‘The government has indicated that it plans to write to parliament by the end of this year setting out what more needs to be done and what needs to be done differently to inform a step change to address biodiversity loss.’