In the run up to the Scottish Elections in May we will be talking to you about the transformative changes that politicians in Scotland must make to recover Scotland’s amazing nature and how you can help.
Restoring nature and helping the climate
As we wrote about at the end of March, the Scottish Elections set to take place in May will be one of several crucial moments in 2021 that must set the stage for transformative action on nature loss and climate change over the coming years. We know that nature is in decline and urgently needs our help, across the world and here at home in Scotland. We also know that helping nature to recover is vital for people, and will provide jobs, support our economies, improve our health and wellbeing and enrich our lives.
Last year we launched the Nature Recovery Plan in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust and WWF Scotland, with 11 Actions to kickstart nature’s recovery across Scotland. We hope to see all political parties raising their ambitions on nature and committing to the 11 Actions in their election manifestos.
Today, we focus on three actions in the plan that focus on how we manage land and would deliver huge benefits for nature and the climate.
The nature crisis and the climate crisis are deeply interlinked. Climate change is a key driver of biodiversity loss and the destruction of important habitats like forests, woodlands, peatlands and wetlands releases carbon stored by nature into the atmosphere. But where there are shared problems there are also many shared solutions. The protection and/or restoration of ecosystems on land and at sea, in a way that improves biodiversity and helps us tackle climate change, is known as Nature-based solutions.
Three of the actions in our Nature Recovery Plan stand out as being particularly important in Scotland’s journey to Net Zero climate emissions by 2045 and all relate to how we manage our land:
Ask #1: Deliver a significant expansion in Scotland’s native woodlands annually from 2020
Scotland’s incredible native woodlands support a huge range of wildlife including red squirrels, crested tits, capercaillie, lichens and mosses and liverworts. They are also important places for storing carbon. However, Scotland’s native woodlands are under pressure and in decline. We need to protect and restore our existing native woodlands and plant more native trees in appropriate places across Scotland. We’re asking political parties to commit to using native species for half of all new tree planting and believe that all of Scotland’s woodlands – new, existing and commercial – must be developed and managed in ways to benefit nature.
Ask #4: Reduce deer populations and maintain them at sustainable levels through new or improved legislation by the end of 2021
Deer are a natural feature of Scotland’s landscapes, but in the absence of natural predators deer numbers have risen to high levels in some parts of Scotland. These deer can damage important nature- and carbon-rich habitats like native woodlands and peatlands, and hold back projects to restore those habitats. Deer need to be managed by people to ensure their numbers are kept at a sustainable level. We want to see all political parties commit to bring forward new legislation in the next Scottish Parliament to bring deer numbers into balance with the needs of our natural habitats and needs for carbon storage, as agreed in principle in the Scottish Government’s response to the Independent Deer Working Group’s report.
Ask #7: End burning on peatland and the commercial extraction and sale of peat for horticulture across Scotland by 2030
Scotland’s peatlands can act as vast carbon stores and also provide an important home to wildlife like dunlin, golden plover and diverse insect and plant communities. However, peatlands can only play this vital dual role if they are healthy. Currently, around two-thirds of Scotland’s peatlands are degraded meaning they are releasing carbon into the atmosphere. A programme of peatland restoration is already underway across Scotland, but this must be scaled up, and there must be action to address damaging practices on peat. We want all political parties to commit to restoring all of Scotland’s peatlands by 2045; to end burning on peat and introduce a licensing system for burning in other places; and to bring an end to the commercial extraction and sale of peat for horticulture by 2030.
These actions are all about how we use and manage land here in Scotland and are closely linked to one another. It is vitally important for nature that these recommendations are incorporated into party manifestos.
Why not check which candidates and parties have made these commitments and make sure your candidates understand that nature is important to you by calling on them to champion nature. Find out more about the Nature Recovery Plan at rspb.org.uk/reviveourworldscotland.
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