This planet provides everything we need for our health, well-being and prosperity: air, water, food, raw materials, energy, and processes which break down wastes.
It is our most precious resource, but one that is also under pressure.
If everyone lived as we in Scotland do, we would need the resources of almost three planets to support ourselves. Globally, that figure is estimated to be more than one and a half planets, and rising.
But we only have the one, so it will eventually restrict our success, unless we find new ways to thrive within its capacity to support us.
This is no theory or fantasy. It is the stark reality which faces us all in the 21st century. But it is also an opportunity for those willing to grasp it. The businesses, societies and nations which will thrive in the 21st century will be those which have developed ways to prosper within our planet’s capacity.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) recognises this. Our unique statutory purpose is to protect and improve the environment in ways which also create benefits to health and well-being, and sustainable economic growth.
It’s both a challenge, and a fantastic opportunity, and to achieve it SEPA will have to work differently from any other environment protection agency in the world. Our Regulatory Strategy – One Planet Prosperity – is our unique and visionary blueprint for making SEPA a regulator fit for the 21st century, at the forefront of the drive for economic and social success which respects the capacity of our planet to support us.
Most environment protection agencies were set up to reduce the impact of gross industrial pollution, through environmental regulations. But regulatory compliance is just the first step towards One Planet Prosperity. We need to help businesses go beyond compliance.
The most successful businesses in the future will be those that are not just compliant, but which are also low carbon, low material use, low water use and low waste, seeing environmental excellence as an opportunity, not a problem.
Our role as a 21st century regulator is to help them identify and take these opportunities, creating lasting prosperity and viability.
All this will require us to develop our capacity and capability to work with businesses in ways we never have before; encouraging and supporting innovative thinking, working collaboratively with business sectors, individual businesses and other organisations to drive and support innovation, problem-solving and, ultimately, prosperity within the capacity of our planet to support it.
This unique and visionary approach will, I believe, transform SEPA into a world-class environment protection agency, and Scotland into one of the first places in the world to host a genuinely 21st century environmental regulator.
- Terry A’Hearn is Chief Executive of SEPA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.