Let's make 2023 the year of restoration - Lorna Slater
Yet, for far too long they have been neglected. Not just in Scotland, but across the world.
Global wildlife populations have fallen by more than two thirds since 1970, and the rate is not slowing down, with the UN warning that one in eight of our plant and animal species are at risk of extinction.
We don’t just need to halt this decline, we need to reverse it.
That is what we are working to do in Scotland, with record investment in biodiversity and new plans to protect our lands and seas.
One of my favourite aspects of my Ministerial role is working with NatureScot on the ground breaking nature restoration fund.
This is a £65 million fund that supports vital projects across our country, from rainforest restoration to ensuring better greener spaces in our cities.
Last month I was proud to represent the Scottish Government at the UN COP 15 biodiversity conference in Montreal.
It is a global conference that happens every two years. This one aimed to deliver a new agreement to reverse the destruction of the natural world and to stop extinctions.
Perhaps the most important contribution Scotland made to the talks was the Edinburgh process, which we led on behalf of the Convention for Biological Diversity
It saw over 300 regions, cities and local authorities around the world sign the Edinburgh Declaration, which commits to transformative action to protect biodiversity and calls for an ambitious global deal for nature.
By working closely with others, we were able to influence the talks, while supporting and encouraging each other to go further in our efforts to preserve biodiversity in our own countries.
The agreement that was reached may not have everything we hoped for, but it was a big step forward and can serve as a turning point in the fight against ecosystem collapse.
Perhaps the most important outcome was the agreed target to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and sea by 2030. If achieved, it will have a transformative impact for people and our planet.
While in Montreal, I was delighted to publish the Scottish Government’s draft Biodiversity Strategy, which sets out how we will deliver on these targets.
It is a bold and ambitious vision, and one that I am very proud of. It commits us to statutory nature restoration targets, the restoration of vital habitats and new steps to promote nature-friendly farming, fishing and forestry.
There is a lot to do. Reforesting our hills, restoring our peat bogs, and healing our rivers on their own are all big tasks, but to do them all simultaneously will be a huge challenge.
But it’s also an opportunity to build a better, greener Scotland that we all benefit from.
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity