RSPB Scotland is asking for bold action in new national planning framework - Esmé Clelland

Whether it’s birdwatching from the kitchen window, spinning along a leafy cycle path or visiting a local nature reserve, in tough times nature provides a unique and valuable therapy.

Esmé Clelland, Senior Conservation Planner, RSPB Scotland

However, wildlife is under threat and climate change is part of the problem. With the UN Climate Conference (COP26) rapidly approaching, the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackle the nature and climate emergency will be tested this autumn, with a public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny of their draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).

The Scottish Government describes NPF4 as ‘a long-term plan for Scotland that sets out where development and infrastructure is needed to support sustainable and inclusive growth.’ NPF4 will be one of the most important plans of the coming decade, guiding decision-makers by setting out priorities for development, including how nature and climate should be considered, where development should go and what Scotland’s towns, cities and countryside should be like. NPF4 will look up-to and beyond the 2045 net-zero emissions target and commitments to protect 30 percent of land and seas for nature by 2030. It needs to set strong foundations to support this transition to a net zero, nature positive Scotland.

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NPF4 will be driven by the overarching goal of addressing climate change, however, we cannot forget the nature crisis is inextricably linked to this. In Scotland we are seeing declines in the numbers, spread and variety of animals and plants. Scotland has met only nine of the 20 Aichi biodiversity 2020 targets signed up to in order to halt these losses, with significant pressures on biodiversity remaining.

The Scottish Government recently called on parties to the upcoming United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity – to be held in China in 2022 – to “take strong and bold actions to bring about transformative change… in order to halt biodiversity loss.” This is encouraging, but systemic change is needed now if change is to be delivered.

To contribute to resolving these challenges, RSPB Scotland and Scottish Environment Link has called for NPF4 to include a Climate and Nature Network as a national priority.

The network would help guide investment in nature restoration by identifying links between our most precious and protected places for wildlife, where new habitat can be created or enhanced. For instance, connecting areas of nature rich peat bog by restoring degraded peatland between sites allows wildlife to travel between them, increasing the resilience and diversity of species. Healthy peatlands also soak up and store carbon, contributing toward net-zero targets. The network would benefit people, provide jobs and could help naturally manage issues such the risk of increasingly severe floods and droughts. It would also support beautiful, healthy places for people to enjoy in urban and rural areas.

To achieve what is needed, there must be collaboration between national and local government working across all sectors, including planning, farming and forestry. A climate and nature network provides the focus needed to achieve this, helping deliver on the ground at the scale and pace required.

RSPB Scotland is asking for a bold NPF4 that fully commits to playing its part in addressing the nature and climate emergency and creates places rich in wonder and beauty we can all benefit from.

Esmé Clelland, Senior Conservation Planner, RSPB Scotland