NatureScot Research Report 1309 - Understanding the Indirect Drivers of Biodiversity Loss in Scotland
Year of publication: 2023
Authors: Robin J Pakeman1, Antonia Eastwood1, Dominic Duckett1, Kerry A Waylen1, Jon Hopkins1 and David M Bailey2
1The James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, AB15 8QH.
2 School of Biodiversity, One Health and Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow Graham Kerr Building, Glasgow, G12 8QQ.
Cite as: Pakeman, R.J., Eastwood, A., Duckett, D., Waylen, K.A. Hopkins, J. and Bailey, D.M. 2023. Understanding the Indirect Drivers of Biodiversity Loss in Scotland. NatureScot Research Report 1309.
Read the Summary Report - Understanding the Indirect Drivers of Biodiversity Loss in Scotland - A Summary
Biodiversity loss; IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services); Economic growth; Indirect drivers; Planetary boundaries; Sustainability.
There is formal recognition that Scotland’s biodiversity (the biological variety and variability of life on Earth) is in poor shape and faces further pressure in the future if action is not taken. The Marine and Terrestrial Species Indicators show declines for marine and terrestrial species abundance. Scotland is ranked in the bottom 15% of countries in the Biological Intactness Index. Like climate change, these are symptoms and indicators of overconsumption linked to our current and past unsustainable use of resources. Scotland substantially exceeds its planetary boundaries (the safe operating space for humanity that allows future generations to thrive, Rockstrom et al., 2009). In order to prevent further enormous ecological and societal damage there needs to be a fundamental adjustment of society’s relationship to biodiversity and its over-exploitation. This will need a shift in values along a spectrum from materialism to intrinsic/self-transcendent values/goals, which in turn can improve physical and mental wellbeing (Kasser 2016).
Efforts have been made to tackle the direct drivers of biodiversity loss. These direct drivers were set out in the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (the IPBES report, IPBES 2019a). The report presents a critical assessment of the status and trends of the natural world, the social implications of these trends, their direct and indirect causes, and actions that can be taken to ensure a better future for all. The direct drivers comprise land/sea use change, resource extraction, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change. For example, with regard to pollution, atmospheric nitrogen and sulphur deposition are declining through technological improvements and shifts in energy production.
The direct drivers continue to cause biodiversity loss at unprecedented rates, for example, global temperatures are still increasing and invasive alien species continue to increase in number (GB statistics). Climate change will continue to impact on biodiversity in Scotland for decades to come. Scotland has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2045 and the pathways for adaptation and mitigation set out in Scotland’s Climate Change Plan will help to address the impacts of climate change. However, climate change impacts on biodiversity will still occur for decades to come, which in turn has driven the development of large-scale projects aimed at increasing the resilience of ecosystems, such as Cairngorms Connect.
There is a growing realisation internationally that efforts aimed at tackling the direct drivers of biodiversity loss by themselves, whilst important, will not be anything like sufficient to address biodiversity loss. Underlying the direct drivers are a range of indirect drivers, which are in turn underpinned by societal values and behaviours – it is these indirect drivers that have driven and continue to drive biodiversity loss and climate change. The Summary for Policymakers of the IPBES report (IPBES 2019b) states that “unsustainable use of the Earth’s resources is underpinned by a set of demographic and economic indirect drivers” or “underlying societal causes”. They comprise patterns of production and consumption, human population dynamics and trends, trade, technology and local, national and global governance. Addressing the indirect drivers at a global, national and local scale is necessary if we are not to exceed planetary boundaries and cause further significant losses of biodiversity (Fanning et al, 2021). The SPICe Spotlight blog ‘Governing nature – halting biodiversity loss’, October 2022 noted that the Scottish Government consultation on the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy found that ‘key shortcomings relating to governance and accountability structures and mechanisms for mainstreaming biodiversity into all areas of policy, including economic policy making, have undermined our ambitions’. The blog draws attention to the five key interventions identified by IPBES to address underlying drivers of biodiversity loss, and notes that the Parliament can reframe these levers as questions for scrutiny across policy areas.
This report follows the framework of the IPBES Report and its definitions of the indirect drivers. The indirect drivers are considered under five headings:
- Socio-cultural (section 5)
- Demography (section 6)
- Economic (section 7)
- Politics, institutions and governance (section 8)
- Technology (section 9)
We briefly summarise the description of these drivers given in the IPBES report, transpose these to the Scottish situation with relevant evidence presented to support this transposition and identify potential levers of change.
Under each of the five section headings below a series of bullets illustrate key aspects of the indirect driver causing biodiversity loss outlining how the impacts of that aspect of the indirect driver could be reduced. The latter are shown in italics.
Each bullet also lists actors with key responsibility for the levers of change and for initiating action to address that specific indirect driver. The actors are shown in text in square brackets: [Individuals, Communities, Civic Society, Business, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government, International institutions].
Necessarily, these summaries can only give a high-level synthesis of a very complex world and we would recommend reading the whole report, although even in the main report the synthesis is relatively brief and the reader is encouraged to follow links to supporting evidence and the bibliography.
Socio-cultural (section 5)
- Scotland hosts heterogenous views, from materialist to those supporting positive environmental actions and reduced consumption: ensure decision making at all levels, from the individual to the state, is forward-looking and compatible with long-term sustainability. There is potential to learn lessons from the Welsh Well-being of Future Generations Act and the Scottish Government is appointing a Future Generations commissioner which could be replicated within local government. [Individuals, Business, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Scotland is a comparatively wealthy country with high levels of material, energy and meat consumption and with a culture that broadly encourages further consumption: unsustainable material and energy consumption that degrades the natural world will need to be reduced across society as well as a switch away from ecologically inefficient meat production. Economic decision-making should be based on metrics that focus more on broader sustainability rather than on narrower measures that focus only on economic performance, and taxation could move more towards resource use rather than income or wealth. [Individuals, Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government, International institutions]
- Only a small proportion of the population is ‘very interested in” or “very concerned about” biodiversity, and access to nature and greenspace is unequal across society. Evidence from the Marine Social Attitudes survey suggests more positive attitudes towards the marine environment, albeit that this appears to be based on relatively weak understanding of the issues. Engagement with nature is particularly low in deprived areas: creating opportunities for relational values (those that come from human-nature interactions) is an important component of building nature connection and pro-environment behaviours, so increased effort is required to (re)connect the public, and especially children, to biodiversity and the benefits they derive from it. [Civic Society, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- The media play a huge role in influencing opinion; the public media (print, broadcast and social; local and national) has a critical role to play in informing public debates on values and viewpoints around nature, the environment, biodiversity, alternative economic systems, and what constitutes ’a good life’ and can help society to move to an approach founded on sound evidence. [Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government]
Demography (section 6)
- Internal migration and an ageing population threaten the viability of some remote rural regions and their high nature value farming: support could be strengthened for these remote areas to ensure the continuance of high-nature value farming. [Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Population projections, which drive the demand for new housing and urbanisation, suggest a slight increase until 2028 and then a slight decrease to 2045 with most growth in urban areas, particularly in the Central Belt: demand for housing should be increasingly met with sustainable homes, communities and infrastructure that are integrated with biodiversity and other elements of green infrastructure. [Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- There is unequal access to, and therefore unequal engagement with, nature across society: greater provision of green and blue spaces, particularly in urban areas, could be supplemented with increased engagement with disengaged communities, potentially through increased opportunities for volunteering. [Communities, Civic Society, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- There are potential skills gaps in the nature-sector, particularly in on-the-ground roles: support for the sector has to have stability to allow career development and to build the skills necessary for ecological restoration. [Civic society, Business, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Agricultural advice has been dominated by private sector advisors: recent developments in government funded advice should be strengthened with the focus on biodiversity protection and restoration. [Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Local and experiential knowledge is underutilised in environmental decision-making. For instance, knowledge from fishers, tourism and aquaculture needs to be brought together into decision-making locally and nationally, and integrated with scientific evidence: participatory governance arrangements should be developed that incorporate local knowledge into decision making. [Civic society, Business, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- There is a democracy deficit at the local level in land and sea use decision making: participatory and deliberative decision making should make use of local knowledge and strengthen local democracy. Increased shared public spheres that enable deliberation around complex environmental and societal decision-making would support increased participation by young people and diverse communities. [Communities, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies
- Urbanisation and technology have decreased the connection between children and nature: nature connection activities and the importance of nature to human well-being could be further integrated into the school curriculum, widening the coverage of sustainability into all subjects would help to prepare children for future decision making, though this would require resources and further training. [Civic Society, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
Economic (section 7)
- Scotland has an economy dominated by the service sector, tourism and food and drink, although farming, forestry and fishing remain prominent in many rural areas. Marine fisheries contributed £301 million (GVA) to the economy in 2018, an increase of around 10% since 2009: reforming regulations and incentives, such as agri-environment payments, to reduce the environmental impacts of land use and boost nature restoration are necessary across all sectors of the economy, including farming, fishing and forestry. [Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government]
- Global supply chains are highly concentrated within a small number of organisations: there is scope for supply chains to become more diverse and to underpin more environmentally and socially sustainable production. Reducing inequality and relative poverty will also enable more of society to benefit from sustainably produced food. [Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government, International institutions]
- Around 30% of threatened species have been linked to the impacts of global trade and the UK is the 5th ranked country in exporting its biodiversity footprint to other countries: reducing imports with poor sustainability records, improving certification schemes and moving towards a zero-waste society and a circular economy will reduce Scotland’s global biodiversity footprint, whilst reporting the environmental impact of imported materials will enable consumers to make choices based on sustainability. [Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Conversely, for some domestic industries the majority of the product is exported with the biodiversity impact being felt in Scotland: increasing domestic markets for Scottish produce, whilst also improving certification schemes and moving towards a circular economy and a zero-waste society, will help to reduce the environmental footprint of Scotland and globally, reduce costs for businesses and enable consumers to make choices based on sustainability. Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Scottish level action to restore habitats (e.g., by replacing plantation forestry with native woodland) and some actions to protect species may export impacts elsewhere: land and marine management decisions should be framed in terms of both their local and global biodiversity impacts. [Civic Society, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- The emergence of a carbon market will have environmental and social impacts: it would be helpful if efforts were directed towards ensuring that carbon markets do not further biodiversity loss but rather contribute to restoring biodiversity. [Communities, Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Narrow, monetary based performance indicators like GDP are not fit for purpose: new indicators of sustainability and well-being should be developed and adopted, and businesses and pension funds should report on their sustainability, well-being and equity impacts. Scotland is a founding member of the Wellbeing Economy Governments, a group of nations that are exploring how to increase recognition of environmental and human health within their economies. [Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government, International institutions]
- Tax havens deplete tax revenues, increase wealth inequality and promote environmentally detrimental spatial injustices: reforming registers of land ownership and taxation could be used to provide resources for environmental protection and restoration. [Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government, International institutions]
Politics, institutions and governance (section 8)
- Strong global governance is necessary to achieve a zero-carbon future and to reverse biodiversity loss, but effective action can also be taken at national level: by mainstreaming biodiversity into policy through considering the indirect drivers Scotland will set a global example. [Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government, International institutions]
- A wide range of policy instruments is available to shift towards more sustainable resource use: further policy integration is required across all sectors to ensure that decisions in one sector do not compromise the objectives of other sectors. [Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Current power structures can be seen as remote and influenced by vested interests: local democracy could be strengthened and further devolved to facilitate deliberation on complex, interconnected environmental and social issues and allow for more inclusive decision making. [Communities, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Scotland has committed to protecting 30% of its land and sea by 2030 and has committed to making at least 10% of its seas Highly Protected Marine Areas: calls for making at least 10% of land strictly protected have been made and more resources are required for co-management and wider stakeholder engagement, enforcement, monitoring, adaptive management. [Communities, Civic Society, Scottish Government]
- Managing shared resources (public goods) such as the atmosphere, oceans and wild species populations is inherently problematic and has largely focussed on maintaining short-term levels of resource extraction. There have been calls to ensure that future fish quotas are shared more fairly: policy responses should shift to ensure that future resource management, including marine fisheries, support biodiversity enhancement and carbon sequestration, underpinned by more inclusive governance. Regional bodies, including Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups and Marine Planning Partnerships, could help facilitate this process in a way that integrates consideration of fisheries with wider marine management, but would require substantial reform to provide for effective marine resource management. [Communities, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Existing certification schemes only give a partial picture of the sustainability of production methods, can have divergent and confusing standards, and some do little more than ensure compliance with legislation: these require a radical overhaul to highlight the full impact of production on biodiversity. [Civic Society, Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government, International institutions]
- Property rights, such as tenancies and common rights, complicate action to protect and restore biodiversity: agri-environment support should be restructured to cope with different types of land tenure and support given to rural communities engaged in managing common resources. [Communities, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Incentives for using fossil fuels need to be reduced to address greenhouse gas emissions: aviation fuel tax exemption and subsidies for fossil fuel production should be removed, and fossil fuel taxes increased elsewhere whilst ensuring this is progressive with support available to all households to adapt to net zero. [Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government]
- Shifting journeys to public transport and active travel is more resource efficient leading to less pollution and lower carbon emissions than private car use: investment, for example in active travel routes as part of green infrastructure, is needed but this could be (partly) funded by financial disincentives for private car use such as workplace parking levies. [Individuals, Business, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Agri-environment and forestry support schemes are the main mechanism to directly affect land management practices: Shifting to results-based payments (including for other sectors, e.g., fisheries) would give more agency to managers and increase effectiveness. However, regulation is needed to prevent perverse outcomes, e.g., from tree planting on organic soils or on valuable open habitats. [Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- The development of carbon markets now means land is being bought for offsetting, seen either as attracting new finance to the land management sector or “greenwashing”: to protect biodiversity and soil carbon from inappropriate management, standards should be developed to evaluate and reward carbon positive management, and mechanisms developed to prevent inappropriate schemes, such as extending Environmental Impact Assessment. [Civic Society, Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Changing consumption patterns and technology will impact different parts of the population unevenly. Competition for space in the sea between energy and fishing puts pressure on fishers and may reduce the scope for fishers to compromise on spatial measures for biodiversity: equity is a key concern in transitioning to a greener Scotland and is the focus of the Just Transition. [Communities, Civic Society, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Working to deliver biodiversity outcomes at the scale of subnational governments, cities and other local authorities can complement global levers and approaches for biodiversity: more integration between government departments and more support for biodiversity action at a local scale will improve biodiversity outcomes. Similarly, taking an international lead in conservation and sustainable management can influence international decision making and boost public acceptance of national decisions. [Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies].
Technology (section 9)
- Local and experiential knowledge is increasingly accepted as a valid input into decision-making: governance structures should include such local and experiential knowledge alongside other forms of evidence and be balanced to prevent vested interests misdirecting change. The Regional Land Use and Marine Planning Partnerships offer potential models but may lack resources or rights to influence action. [Communities, Local Government, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Agriculture is increasingly adopting management practices and technologies that will increase sustainability: extension services (or Agricultural Rural Knowledge and Innovation Systems) will be required to support the sector in adopting technologies that reduce inputs such as precision farming and crop diversification and are required to help land managers to develop farm plans that improve carbon management, protect biodiversity and deliver ecosystem services. [Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies]
- Managing land for biomass production could put it in competition with food production and biodiversity: mechanisms are needed to prevent locally and imported biomass coming from systems that degrade biodiversity. [Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government]
- Technological innovations have helped to reduce pollution, alleviate water scarcity and improve water quality, and have facilitated a shift towards renewable energy; they can also be used to help us move towards a circular economy: mechanisms need to be strengthened to support the adoption of technologies that improve sustainability and reverse biodiversity loss. [Business, Scottish Government and Scottish Public Bodies, UK Government]
To ensure Scotland’s ecological footprint is sustainable and to reverse biodiversity loss will require considerable and quick changes in societal values and behaviours supported by raising public awareness, education and persuasive media campaigns etc.; and by legislation and policy, by changes in investment, production and marketing practices by businesses and by shifts in economic behaviour at an individual and community level.
Policy makers and business should move away from using measures of production and consumption as metrics of performance and shift to performance metrics that focus on sustainability. This will require substantial adjustments, but these will ultimately be easier and less costly than adjusting to a continuing biodiversity and climate crisis (Sanderson and O’Neill 2020, Stern 2006). To make a Just Transition towards a sustainable, greener future will require a concentration on decisions that are equitable both within Scotland and with regard to the global impact of our lifestyles. There may be advantages in initiating a national conversation on how we can transition to a sustainable future; this will require difficult adjustments including in tax policy and investment. Difficult decisions will need to be made for example to balance biodiversity with carbon sequestration, and with food and timber production. Such a debate will require engagement from the whole of society including all the sectors we identify in the summary.
Whilst successfully addressing the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss will stop the biodiversity crisis worsening, regenerating lost biodiversity will require substantial restoration efforts, much of which will require public funding alongside private investment. Even here difficult decisions will need to be made as to which habitats to prioritise and whether priority should be given to carbon sequestration or onshoring food and timber production rather than in improving local biodiversity.
We propose that public bodies analyse how they can address the biodiversity and climate crises through a combination of Theory of Change and Scenario Planning as described in section 10. Such an approach will help to coordinate and align scientific analysis by providing a set of future trajectories that can be used as inputs for developing frameworks and measures to confront the climate emergency and nature crisis in Scotland. This approach will support integration of multiple, disparate data sources and stakeholder perspectives (Goudeseune et al., 2020). Combining these two methodologies will bring rigour and creativity to the process. The approach could also be profitably adopted by business, local government and even communities.
This report can provide only a summary of the challenge, but it identifies a number of areas where knowledge needs to be synthesised, and where new research is needed (section 11). A difficult transition may be ahead, but such information and understanding are crucial to transforming society to achieve the overall aim of “living in harmony with nature” (the vision of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity).
We would like to thank our interviewees Tim Daw (Stockholm University), Jo Pike (Scottish Wildlife Trust), Claudia Rowse (NatureScot), Hamish Trench (The Scottish Land Commission), Peter Wright (Marine Scotland Science, retired) and our workshop participants Bill Adams (University of Cambridge), Matthew Bird (Scottish Government), Chrissy Walker (University of Surrey), Sophus Zu Ermgassen (University of Kent), Anne Gray (Moorland Forum), Peter Higgins (University of Edinburgh), Rhys Howell (Scottish Government), Chris Ives (University of Nottingham), Lisa McCann (Scottish Government), Clive Mitchell (NatureScot), Paula Novo (University of Leeds) and Pete Rawcliffe (NatureScot), as well as our NatureScot team of Alan Cameron, Katie Gillham and Des Thompson. We would also like to thank Kirsty Blackstock, Rob Brooker, Colin Campbell and Tom Parker who gave critical comments on the draft report.
1. Purpose and objectives
The aim of this study is to characterise the indirect drivers of biodiversity change as they apply in Scotland and advise on how they could be further evaluated in terms of their impact on biodiversity. Specifically, this report aims to:
1. Characterise the IPBES indirect drivers as they apply in Scotland, including highlighting any significant regional and marine/rural/urban variations.
2. Identify which indirect drivers appear likely to be most relevant to achieving a nature-rich future in Scotland, providing a clear supporting rationale.
3. Propose a methodology for next steps in evaluating and addressing the indirect drivers in Scotland, which should incorporate how to identify and prioritise relevant levers for change and associated actions. Note that this method should be applicable across Government bodies and other key players, i.e., it should not be limited to work likely to be led by NatureScot.
4. Advise on priorities for further work that NatureScot should consider in developing an understanding of the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss.
Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the diversity of life in all its forms, covering what we call species but also their genetic and functional diversity. The Dasgupta Reviewon The Economics of Biodiversity highlights the high dependency of human society and economy on natural assets. However, it is increasingly becoming clear that existing approaches to the management of these assets are inadequate for ensuring that we will continue to be able to benefit from nature in future, as global biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate.
The most recent State of Nature report highlighted that 1 in 9 species in Scotland are at risk of extinction. Furthermore, Scotland is ranked near the bottom of the 240 countries and territories assessed in terms of the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII), having lost nearly half of its biodiversity (BII = 56 %, Sanchez-Ortiz et al., 2019). This has been driven by “ecological overshoot” and the “transgression of planetary boundaries”; in other words, Scotland has financed its development and high living standards through the degradation of its own resources and those of other countries, which has had, and continues to have, a negative impact on biodiversity (Fanning et al., 2021).
The direct drivers of biodiversity loss have long been recognised and have been grouped into five types by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES 2019a):
- Land/sea use change – historical and current conversion of natural vegetation to agriculture or settlements has had a remarkable impact on biodiversity, with more than 50 % of the earth land surface converted to agriculture or urban land. Aquaculture, land degradation, the conversion of wetlands and fragmentation of habitats have also had long-term, significant impacts on biodiversity.
- Resource extraction – extraction of timber, minerals and fossil fuels have all had significant impacts on biodiversity. Resource consumption continues to grow to fuel industrial and urban expansion. Impacts can range from complete ecosystem removal by surface mining to over-exploitation of commercial fish species. In addition, the over-extraction of fresh water for industrial or human use has impacted many river and wetland systems.
- Pollution – atmospheric pollutants such as ozone (O3), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), ammonia (NHx) and oxides of sulphur (SOx)have had considerable, widespread impacts on biodiversity through direct toxicity, eutrophication and acidification. Nitrogen and sulphur compound deposition has also had impacts on aquatic communities, which have also been impacted by agricultural run-off (both nutrients and pesticides), human waste and industrial chemicals. Coastal zones are also impacted, with eutrophication leading to algal blooms and the formation of dead zones as oxygen is removed from the water. Plastic pollution, including microplastics, has recently been identified as a rapidly increasing problem.
- Invasive alien species – many ecosystems are threatened by invasive species. The scale of the problem is increasing due to increased trading links, high human mobility, habitat degradation and climate change.
- Climate change – Greenhouse gas emissions from combustion and land use change has meant that global temperature rise has now exceeded 1°C. This has impacted biodiversity through sea level rise, ocean acidification, reduction in habitat extent and increased extreme events. It will continue to impact biodiversity in the future through impacts that are locked in. Scotland has set a target for net zero emissions by 2045 and has set out pathways for each sector to reduce emissions, to adapt and to mitigate. However, analysis of the commitments from COP 26 suggests that global temperature rise by 2100 will be around 2.4°C rather than the formally adopted goal of 1.5°C.
Increasingly it is acknowledged that focussing attention and action on redressing these direct, or proximate, drivers has had little impact on slowing global biodiversity loss. The most recent Global Biodiversity Outlook acknowledged that none of the twenty Aichi Biodiversity Targets were fully met, there was only partial progress on six and that biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate. Both the Global Biodiversity Outlook and the IPBES Global Report acknowledge that to reverse the decline of biodiversity, both the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss must be addressed. The IPBES Global Report calls the indirect drivers “the root causes of the deterioration of nature” as the direct drivers themselves stem from social, demographic, economic, political and technological changes. Understanding these indirect drivers – or root causes – is thus essential to enable more effective action to protect and restore biodiversity.
The indirect drivers of biodiversity loss can be seen as “societal values and behaviours that include production and consumption patterns, human population dynamics and trends, trade, technological innovations and local through global governance” (IPBES 2019a). Throughout this report we use ‘societal values and behaviours’ as shorthand to describe the indirect drivers. Efforts to reverse biodiversity loss have to tackle these societal values and behaviours as they underpin the direct drivers that physically result in the loss of species and habitats.
The project team reviewed the IPBES Global Report (IPBES 2019a) and summarised the key messages associated with each indirect driver. Using their own expert knowledge, key data and literature sources the team assessed how each of the indirect drivers applied to the Scottish context. This was necessary as the Global Report is relevant to all countries across the world and much of the text is focussed on the developing world. The team then worked to identify potential levers of change that could positively influence the indirect drivers to reduce their impacts on biodiversity.
To assist in identifying relevant issues and potential levers of change, in November 2021 the team carried out five interviews with experts with complementary perspectives on socio-economic systems and biodiversity impacts. In addition, a workshop was held on 9th December 2021 with participants from academia, land management and policy who were asked for their expert input into a discussion of indirect drivers of biodiversity loss and potential levers for transformative change. The workshop and interviews were used to consolidate the content of this report by improving our understanding of how the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss apply in Scotland and helping to identify levers of change and priorities for future work.
4. The Drivers
This report follows the headings used in the IPBES Global Report (IPBES 2019a): Socio-cultural; Demography; Economics; Politics, Institutions and Governance; and Technology.
For each heading we (i) briefly summarise the international context (and give the relevant page number from the Global Report), (ii) identify the relevance to Scotland and then (iii) identify existing and potential levers of change that can positively influence this driver.
5.1. Different social groups hold different values
International: The IPBES report indicates indigenous values of respect, humility and gratitude towards ‘mother nature’ that operate through traditional belief systems tend to create nature-friendly norms and practices (IPBES 2019a, pg. 72). By contrast, more instrumental and utilitarian values leading to extractive, materialistic norms dominate the activities of industrialised nations. Instrumental values can be made more nature-friendly by foregrounding the intrinsic value of natural entities and by promoting the bequest value (to future generations), referred by Dasgupta in terms of not “endangering the prosperity of future generations”. Monetary value, as a standard of exchange, can be used as a proxy for worth, for example, willingness to pay in ecosystems services approaches, but this has limitations due to the diverse ways of valuing nature’s contributions to people and the difficulties of valuing all services, as well as differences between stated values and consumption behaviours.
Scotland: Scotland hosts a society with heterogeneous and widely disparate views about nature and what constitutes a good life, though bequest value seems to be a strong driver for conservation in Scotland. There has been an increase in the adoption of positive environmental actions such as recycling and litter cleaning by the public and increases in membership for organisations advocating protection and restoration of biodiversity; in 2012 membership of environmental or conservation groups numbered over 4.5 million people in the UK. Evidence from the Marine Social Attitudes survey suggests more positive attitudes towards the marine environment, albeit that this appears to be based on relatively weak understanding of the issues. Despite these positive signs there are also conflicting values and preferences that may act against nature. For example, many people are reluctant or unable to adopt fundamental lifestyle changes that would reduce nature impacts. This is likely reinforced by structural factors and societal messages about what is desirable. In particular, similar to other developed countries, consumption and aspiration to further consumption is still seen as desirable. This is related to a very strong ‘cultural hegemony’ surrounding economic growth, making it so normalised that it is difficult to or impossible to reflect on it (Hickel, 2020; Schmelzer 2016) or reimagine. For example, there is a dependence on continued ‘growth’ in the heavy financialisaton of investments like pensions. A focus on growth as an engine for improved well-being has distracted wealthy countries like Scotland for decades and reinforced a tendency to avoid examining the difficult politics of redistribution (Bowles et al., 2012; Hickel, 2020) and sustainability. It has also been established that shifting away from a materialist world view can benefit physical and mental wellbeing (Kasser et al. 2016). The UK has a very concentrated ownership of media which may contribute to limiting the plurality of values and viewpoints publicly deliberated (Chivers, 2021).
Levers of change: The Scottish Government’s commitment to sustainable land use and management of the marine environment can have a positive influence on environmental norms and behaviours where it is backed by resources and reflected by policy levers. Establishing community right to buy land if it furthers sustainable development is a useful exemplar of a policy lever allowing sustainability rhetoric to be reflected by practices, however, there is no equivalent for the stewardship of marine resources. The Welsh Government has enacted the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. An equivalent for Scotland could be an additional strong lever applicable across many of the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss. The success of this approach will depend on the scope of any act and the powers of the Future Generations Commissioner (currently being appointed) to intervene in government and local government decision making on both land and sea. This approach could also be adopted by local government. Creating opportunities for relational values (those that come from human-nature interactions) is an important component of building nature connection and pro-environment behaviours. Therefore, increasing nature engagement is critical (Chan et al., 2016). Examples of nature volunteering exist e.g., citizens helping local authorities with encroachment of species such as gorse, and there are many examples of successful citizen science initiatives, but generally these only involve a minority already interested and aware and are generally restricted to land-based activities. Understanding of natural processes can be embedded in all formal and informal education systems, not solely considered the domain of ecologists and geographers (Blackstock et al., 2015). Engagement with nature is already a requirement of Scottish Government education policy (Learning for Sustainability), but its implementation is patchy and could be improved. A further possibility is to develop an environmentally focussed national service.
5.2. Values of nature are rapidly changing
International: Consumptive views on exploiting ecosystems have often overridden indigenous local knowledge and traditional practices, often driven by international institutions (IPBES 2019a, pg. 73). However, there is a trend to greater awareness of people/nature wellbeing in the scientific community and across society. This has extended to a growth in environmental activism, a growth in holistic values often inspired by indigenous worldviews and recognition in international fora including the United Nations. Views of what constitutes a good quality of life are also increasingly incorporating nature connections and culturally grounded knowledges. This topic is the focus of the recent IPBES Values Assessment Report (IPBES 2022) which sets out key messages that highlight the action necessary to embed the diverse values of nature into decision making. The report diagnoses the key issues, that “the causes of the global biodiversity crisis and the opportunities to address them are tightly linked to the ways in which nature is valued in political and economic decisions at all levels” and suggests that “the transformative change needed to address the global biodiversity crisis relies on shifting away from predominant values that currently over-emphasize short term and individual material gains, to nurturing sustainability-aligned values across society".
Scotland: Continued economic growth is a widely accepted societal norm and, although alternatives views exist, these are rarely the subject of mainstream public discourse. Alternative views highlight the fact that it is not continued consumption that matters for a 'good life' but how income and wealth are distributed and what level of investment there is in public services such as education and health (Hickel, 2020; Lent, 2017). Scotland is a comparatively wealthy country (mid-ranked within the OECD, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) with high levels of material, energy and meat consumption, but reducing material production, consumption and waste per capita is essential to achieve biodiversity targets (Otero et al., 2020) as is reducing meat consumption based on grain and legumes which could be used directly by humans and also increases the pressure on biodiversity through the increased cropping area needed to support this (Machovina et al. 2015, Stoll-Kleemann & O'Riordan 2015). As in the international context, there is increasing understanding of the importance of nature in creating a high quality of life but there is still a preponderance of views focussed on consumerism and little acknowledgement of the need for wholesale lifestyle changes. Scotland was a founder member of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership and has also developed its National Performance Framework to show performance across all sectors by setting out Scottish Government “ambitions and providing a vision for national wellbeing across a range of economic, social and environmental factors”. However, the latter’s attempt to get everyone in Scotland to work together, including national and local government, businesses, voluntary organisations, and people living in Scotland through adopting a broader set of measures to measure success has not really entered public consciousness.
Levers of change: Highlighting what a continued focus on economic growth, an acceptance of consumption as a good thing, high levels of disposable waste and low recycling rates all do to biodiversity, the environment and staying within planetary boundaries is necessary to change social norms. Making the connection between dwindling populations of much-loved wildlife and unsustainable lifestyles should be a key message to all sectors of society but all types of messaging should focus on the transitions needed to move to a society which values nature, the environment and biodiversity, as well as one where economic development is based on sustainability and well-being. One potential way to achieve this is to tax resource use rather than income or wealth (Hickel 2019), sometimes called ecological taxation (Lei 2020). Recent experiences suggest citizen assemblies and citizen social science (Kythreotis et al., 2019) may help identify and legitimise the scope of societal changes required. As large sectors of the print media are privately owned, then state-funded and public media should lead the way in changing the landscape of debate away from querying the existence of climate and nature crises (Brüggemann and Engesser 2017; Gavin 2018, Petersen et al., 2019), to one centred on whether or not policies contribute to tackling the crises. Public media (printed, radio, televisual and social; local and national) have a critical role to play in improving public debates on values and viewpoints on nature, the environment, biodiversity, alternative economic systems, and what constituents ’a good life’. In effect, a change in values is required; knowledge is available but making that step to changing values Is difficult as values depend very much on cultural backgrounds (Shi et al. 2015), though there is evidence that young people are more open shifting values based on knowledge (Corner et al. 2015).
6.1. Population dynamics
International: There has been rapid global population growth over the last 50 years, but this has slowed, particularly in the most developed countries where there are now ageing populations (IPBES 2019a, pg. 75).
Scotland: Scotland’s population is slowly increasing. In 2000 it was 5.06 million, whilst in 2020 it was 5.47 million. The total population of Scotland is expected to grow very slightly to 5.48m in 2028, and then fall. Population growth in central Scotland is likely to have a negative impact on biodiversity through the conversion of greenfield sites; trends in ‘soil-sealing’ (covering the ground with an impermeable material) as a measure of infrastructure development show continuing upwards trends.
Levers of change: The Scottish Government’s national population strategy (2021) acknowledges the demographic challenges faced by Scotland (including aging and regional differences in population trends) and emphasises goals including a “more balanced and distributed” population; more distributed and place-based economic activity and jobs, and planning and housing are seen as key areas to achieve this. The Fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) contains policy changes that could minimise the impact of new homes by focussing on derelict land, however it should be acknowledged that some brownfield sites have a higher biodiversity interest than agricultural land and that building on agricultural land shifts production and potential biodiversity impacts elsewhere. The planning framework aims to deliver positive outcomes for biodiversity but there is still the potential for the biodiversity interest to be “outweighed by social, environmental or economic benefits of national importance.” It should be noted that building on farmland shifts demand for food production elsewhere, with potential negative impacts on biodiversity.
International: Migration is increasing, both within countries (from rural areas to cities) and between countries, resulting in increased environmental degradation in areas that people are moving to (IPBES 2019a, pg. 75). Areas losing people may see environmental degradation due to the abandonment of high-nature value farming or in some cases regeneration of natural ecosystems.
Scotland: The internal migration of young people to urban areas threatens the viability of some remote rural regions as populations age and/or decline and the viability of high nature value farming associated with them (Pakeman et al., 2011). This has been reinforced by accommodation problems in some areas as property has been bought for second home and buy-to-let, inflating house prices and reducing availability, and the need for further house building to satisfy local demand. The mismatch between UK Government immigration policy and Scottish migration needs has been identified as a significant issue, with negative impacts on key labour sectors and rural areas.
Levers of change: Migration is recognised by the Scottish Government as critical to population health, although proposals to enhance migration to rural and remote areas have not been taken forward by the UK Government. The National Islands Plan highlights retention and resettlement goals for local young people and a number of council areas (Argyll and Bute, Orkney) are already pursuing resettlement strategies. Policy development is required to meet the targets set out in the Plan. This approach could be extended to other rural areas to improve opportunities for young people wanting to stay in their own areas and to help develop sustainable local economies.
International: Urbanisation is an increasing trend, which is often associated with environmental degradation and poor living conditions (IPBES 2019a, pg. 76).
Scotland: This is the mirror of rural depopulation with a movement of (often) younger and more qualified people from rural areas to the cities. This movement puts pressure on housing and related infrastructure development in cities and in surrounding accessible rural 'commuter' areas, the latter often form attractive residential areas with strong socio-economic development. Urbanisation has a negative influence on biodiversity in Scotland through land use change and habitat degradation, and Scotland's central estuaries have suffered harm.
Levers of change: As mentioned in 6.1, the Fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) is currently out for consultation. It contains policy changes that could minimise the impact of new homes by focussing on derelict land, especially in urban areas this means more efficiency in providing services to denser populations, and in ensuring new developments are served by efficient transport systems and are fully integrated with green infrastructure. The implications of this for biodiversity are discussed under 6.1.
6.4. Human Capital
International: Human capital covers "…education, knowledge, health, capabilities and skills", and roughly correlates with income levels. However, the link between education, economic development and environmental sustainability is multifactorial and is consequently difficult to generalise (IPBES 2019a, pg. 77).
Scotland: Increasing levels of urbanisation can lead to a disconnect from nature especially for people with limited access to blue/greenspace either through lack of opportunity or lack of time. The Scottish Nature Omnibus (August 2019) supports this mixed picture in terms of public views on biodiversity, with a majority (71%) concerned about biodiversity in Scotland, but relatively small percentages being 'very interested' or 'very concerned'. Attitudes to the marine environment were positive indicating that the public wanted more to be done to protect the marine environment. However, levels of understanding of the key issues were low. The progress report on “2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity” delivered to Parliament in 2020 noted an upward trend in adults visiting the outdoors (2013-2018) and there has been a rise in outdoor leisure during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there is a body of evidence from the UK suggesting that there is unequal access to green space across society. Also, safety fears in more deprived areas can limit access to greenspaces by children and families. A number of researchers (Eastwood et al., 2021) have shown the importance of making emotional connections with wildlife in building pro-environmental values. Citizen science initiatives, as well as providing important information, also bring health and wellbeing benefits to those engaged in it (Williams et al., 2022) as well as changing behaviours and pressuring for change (van Brussel and Huyse 2019). An increase in Scotland-based tourism has the potential to negatively impact the environment through erosion and littering, but it may create pressure to improve land and marine management to maintain visitor numbers. However, increasing tourism at home will have less impact on biodiversity than increasing tourism pressure on undeveloped locations, particularly coastal areas, abroad.
There is also concern that there are capacity and skills gaps in the expanding nature-based job market which are needed for sectors such as coastal and marine habitat restoration, woodland planting and restoration, and peatland restoration. Graduate and post-graduate jobs are relatively easy to fill but operational jobs suffer from competition with other sectors. Volunteering has the potential to fill some of these gaps, but restoration efforts may be hampered by a lack of skilled labour.
Levers of change: Greater access to green- and blue-space should be supported, through improved provision and access in urban areas and increased engagement with those currently disengaged. The importance of natural systems can also be integrated into further, higher and continued education for adults, from courses as diverse as agricultural training courses to accountancy. Skills planning to support the nature-based sector is necessary to ensure restoration efforts are not limited by labour and skill shortages. This will be helped by long-term policy commitment to build stability in the sector and by integrating the work of volunteers into the sector.
6.5. Less Agricultural Extension
International: IPBES identify agricultural extension (the application of research on agricultural practices through farmer education) as a double-edged sword in terms of the kinds of agricultural practices it promotes. There is also an acknowledgement of a decline of state provision since the 1960s and 70s associated with growing neoliberalism in farming and greater reliance of farmers on agri-business representatives for new knowledge (IPBES 2019a, pg. 77).
Scotland: Scotland, as for the rest of the UK, has seen a long-term decline in state-funded agricultural extension (Read et al., 1988) and this has been the subject of extensive commentary and research over the decades concerning the replacement of state advice by that from industry (e.g., Atkin, 2008; Knierim et al., 2017; Thirtle et al., 2004).
Levers of change: Proposals for an Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) were launched in 2021 with explicit aspirations to tackling the biodiversity crisis through improved agricultural management. The Farm Advisory Service was established in 2016 with part funding from the Scottish Rural Development Programme, with part of its brief to advise on improving farm biodiversity. It was funded until March 2021, and at the time of writing it is not known if the contract will be extended. If such an approach was continued, then increasing the amount and precision of biodiversity advice would be beneficial especially with the move to payment by results.
6.6. Indigenous and Local Knowledge
International: IPBES recognises the importance of incorporating and including indigenous and traditional knowledge and local communities in environmental decision making for transformative change and sustainability. A key leverage point recommended is justice and inclusion in conservation (IPBES 2019a, pg. 77).
Scotland: There is no recognised indigenous people in Scotland, but land reform has started to shift landownership towards local communities through the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 and Community Empowerment Act (Scotland) 2015. As of December 2020, there were 612 assets in community ownership totalling 191,261 hectares. In 2000 there were just 82 assets in community ownership. There is an increased recognition of involving local and traditional knowledge in decision making and the Scottish Government has published the Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement in 2017 which includes a principle on community engagement and transparency in decision-making. However, despite this national level policy there is a democracy deficit at the local level in land-use decision making. Local authorities have insufficient capacity to engage with local communities as budgets are limited and largely directed towards statutory requirements after budget cuts since 2008. Also, in addition to the local knowledge within the agricultural community there are currently just over 21,000 crofts registered in Scotland and considerable local knowledge is tied up in their occupants across the crofting counties (mainly Argyll and Bute, Na h-Eileanan Siar/Western Isles, Shetland, Orkney and Highland). Similarly, local knowledge is tied up within the Gaelic and dialect speaking communities across Scotland.
Fishing industry participants and their representatives are often assumed to speak for “fishing communities”, and their “local knowledge” has had a relatively privileged role in decision-making. This is despite research showing that fishing is less economically important to communities than expected. The emotional and cultural impact of fishing remains significant, however. The knowledge of fishers needs to continue to be brought into decision-making, but alongside other voices such as tourism and aquaculture locally, and nationally, and supported by strong evidence. The idea of local ownership of marine resources is controversial, given that the sea is common property, and privatising it removes rights from others. While local management of inshore fishing has been established in Shetland, it would be harder to achieve in mainland areas where there is a mixture of limited-range and nomadic vessels using an area.
Levers of change: Participatory and deliberative decision making should be strengthened to make use of local/stakeholder knowledge and encourage local democracy. The development of Regional Land Use Partnerships offers the potential for local knowledge to be taken account of in decision making alongside existing local authority control of planning. Greater incorporation of local and experiential knowledge into marine management could flow from the new Marine Planning Partnerships, the new Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups and align with the aspirations of the Future Fisheries Management Strategy. The use of other democratic structures and processes (section 8.13) such as citizens’ assemblies and co-management governance arrangements could be used to incorporate local and experiential knowledge into decision making.
6.7. Environmental Education
International: Positive childhood experiences in nature with significant adults are important in developing empathy and connection with nature, which in turn develop pro-environmental behaviours. Engaging with the environment can lead to increased health and well-being (IPBES 2019a, pg. 78).
Scotland: Nature connection activities and the importance of nature to human well-being should be further integrated into the school curriculum. There is already an entitlement to learn about sustainability within Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence but given the impact that the global biodiversity and climate crises will have on current and future children, then widening the coverage of this into all subjects is necessary to prepare children for future decision making. Scotland has established a United Nations University recognised Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development which is working with its members and partners to strengthen the delivery of 'Learning for Sustainability' and more broadly the Sustainable Development Goals in Scotland and to provide CPD opportunities for teachers and educational practitioners. This policy needs stronger implementation, inspection and teacher development, as well as adapting the curriculum to the range of new professions opening up.
Levers of change: Outdoor education is a key part of the Curriculum for Excellence. There are many demands for subjects to be included in the school curriculum, but arguably, the current biodiversity and climate crises deserve a greater focus to prepare children to engage with global problems and solutions and there is substantial evidence for the wider benefits of this for children’s education attainment and their development as citizens (Christie and Higgins 2020). Forest schools are an example of an approach that has been shown to be an effective route for this engagement (Turtle et al., 2015), but these reach a small number of children in mostly well-off areas. Increased provision for training for educators to deliver outdoor education is necessary both pre-service and in-service to achieve the stated policy goals (Christie et al., 2014) Support should be given to boost engagement in the groups most likely to benefit from engagement with nature, such as vulnerable children and adults as well as inner city residents with limited access to nature (Barrable and Booth, 2020). There is also a need to debate how Scotland’s countryside will visibly change in order to restore biodiversity and sequester carbon and how to build more green and blue infrastructure into existing urban areas. Increased shared public spheres to enable deliberation around complex environmental and societal decision-making will be necessary for this debate, and they should be geared to allow the greater participation of young people.
7.1. Structural Transition – Economic Composition (shifts across sectors)
International: Globally agriculture is the most important economic sector for low-income countries, whilst the service sector, including financial services, is the most important for high income countries (IPBES 2019a, pg. 83). Proportions of employment within agriculture, industry and services have remained fairly constant from 1990-2016 for low-income countries, but employment is moving increasingly into services in country groups with higher incomes.
Scotland: Scotland has a typical developed country economy in terms of the dominance of the economy by the service sector, for instance the economic output of agriculture was £3,387 million in 2020, only 2% of the economy and had a total workforce of 67,066 out of a total employment of c. 2.65 million in November 2021. However, agriculture, fisheries and forestry are proportionately larger employers in rural areas. Agriculture has an important influence on land management, natural capital and biodiversity as it covers over 70% of the land by area, and post-World War II changes in Scottish agriculture have negatively affected biodiversity. It has been noted elsewhere (outside Scotland) that primary economic sectors are most crucial for understanding biodiversity trends. Many holdings in Scotland are dependent on subsidy income to make a profit, which is particularly the case for farms in less favoured areas, the activities of which are likely to influence the biodiversity of a wide area – a decline in farming and land management in upland areas could harm public goods associated with extensive farming but could provide the opportunity for habitat creation.
Forest and woodland cover made up approximately 18.5% of Scotland’s land area in 2018, having increased from c. 5% in the early 20th century, and there are ambitious expansion targets to further increase this cover. The forestry sector contributed £954 million (gross value added) to the economy in 2012/13 and employed over 25,000 people.
Aquaculture contributed £885 million (gross value added, GVA) in 2018 and supported 6,260 jobs and represents the UK’s largest food export by value. It is dominated by the rearing of salmon, both in terms of production (98% of GVA) and jobs (78%) as the rearing of other finfish and of shellfish are relatively minor parts of the industry. Salmon production has been roughly steady since 2009. However, aquaculture has significant environmental impacts (Tett et al., 2018), particularly through chemical (Bloodworth et al., 2019, Nippard and Ciocan 2019), noise (Findlay et al., 2018) and plastic pollution (Skirtun et al., 2022) as well as spreading sea lice to wild populations of salmonids (Middlemas et al., 2012). The industry has depended on wild-caught fish as feed, much of which could be eaten directly (Willer et al., 2022), but the industry is moving towards reducing this reliance and substituting it with plant-based feeds is considered to be part of the solution to aquaculture becoming a more sustainable industry, with research in addition to the switch to plant-based feeds e.g. use of bi-products (Stevens et al., 2018) and changes in production systems (McGoohan et al., 2021) being explored to potentially reduce environmental impacts. Aquaculture development highlights the binary nature of planning and, in particular, local community engagement with planning, and highlights the lack of deliberative involvement of local communities in decision-making and the relevance of social licence to operate for the future sustainable growth of the sector (Billing 2018).
Marine fisheries contributed £301 million (GVA) to the economy in 2018, an increase of around 10% since 2009, and employed 4,860 people, a decline of around 10% since 2009. In terms of tonnage, the catch is dominated by pelagic species (predominately mackerel and herring) which made up 284,807 tonnes (64%) of the total 445,602 tonnes landed in 2018. Demersal species such as cod, haddock and monkfish made up 24% of tonnage landed (107,551 tonnes) and shellfish 12% (dominated by Nephrops and scallops, 53,243 tonnes). The higher value of shellfish and demersal landing meant that shellfish contributed 30% of the total value landed in 2018 whilst demersal and pelagic species both contributed 35%. Shellfish landings are in slight decline, demersal landing roughly steady and pelagic landings have increased since 2009. Fishing can – and has – resulted in profound changes in marine ecosystems, whether through the structure and complexity of marine communities or through changing seabed habitat. Many stocks have been historically overfished resulting in substantial reductions in catching efficiency (Thurstan et al., 2010) and reductions in the size of fish caught (Heath and Speirs 2012). Since reform of the Common Fisheries Policy however, trends in most assessed stocks have been positive, with reductions in fishing effort leading to rebuilding of stock biomass. Notable issues remain however, especially on the West Coast, where cod and whiting stocks remain at levels which will not support fishing. The modification of benthic (seabed) habitats by towed bottom-fishing gear has had severe impacts on marine biodiversity as well as reducing the sustainability of commercial fishing (Kaiser et al., 2000). Scotland’s Marine Assessment describes a situation where the state of seabed biodiversity is worsening or unknown. The financial investment in fisheries management vs. understanding of marine biodiversity appears to be out of step with the public’s priorities.
Subsidies and grants to marine fisheries and aquaculture are small in comparison to agriculture. The Marine Fund Scotland has a budget of £14.5 million for 2022-23.
Levers of change: There are a number of levers available to alter the relationship between the land-based sectors and biodiversity given the reliance of these sectors on subsidy. Agri-environment policy after the current Brexit transition period (to 2024) is still in development but a greater channelling of support to the enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem services would be of benefit. Subsidy does not play the same role in marine-based food production, so here regulation and the restriction of activities that deplete biodiversity should be the focus of policy development, though targeted subsidies can by useful to encourage more sustainable fishing practices, for example, relating to gear type and/or effort. Continuing to foster dialogue and trust-building between rule-makers, marine scientists and other stakeholders is especially important for fisheries. Across the economy, a reform of economic incentives is required, for example, financial markets and investments should be incentivised to invest in biodiversity and discourage ecosystem degradation (McElwee et al., 2020; Turnhout, et al., 2021). However, reforming incentives will have limited impact without reform of economic and institutional structures maintained to prioritise economic growth over biodiversity (Bartley, 2021).
7.2. Structural Transition – Factors Supporting Sectoral Shifts
International: Material consumption is unequal globally, dominated by Western countries and increasingly by China (IPBES 2019a, pg. 84). Degradation may motivate economic transitions that maintain or improve natural assets although the willingness to pay can vary based on perceived cost sharing and the potential for positive outcomes. Markets may support this where there are incentives to invest in improved resource management or countries may respond with policies.
Scotland: Some subsidy payments through the Common Agricultural Policy have acted as levers for changing farm management behaviour to meet environmental goals, including positive agri-environmental land management to support biodiversity and supporting woodland expansion, however, they are a small proportion of money spent on agricultural support, £34.2M compared to £485M on direct support through Pillar 1 payments). The actions of private land managers are important: the ‘private sector’ was responsible for the vast majority (c. 90%) of new woodland planting in Scotland between 2016-17 and 2020-21. This was split 66% conifer and 34% broadleaved species. The drive towards net-zero and creation of carbon and nature markets is already influencing land markets and transactions, which may potentially risk ‘Carbon silos’ or ‘Green Grabbing’ with potentially serious consequences on Scottish biodiversity as well as on foreign biodiversity and indigenous rights. There are competing and contested conflicts and trade-offs surrounding land use management decisions due to limited land availability, whilst pursuing current rates of material, resource and energy use. Similarly, in the marine environment the UK has left the Common Fisheries Policy and a UK Joint Fisheries Statement is expected. The Scottish Government has published its Future Fisheries Management Strategy which sets out ambitions to preserve and sustain marine ecosystems, strengthen coastal communities and encourage all users to work together. Scotland has a Sustainable Procurement Duty for public procurement which requires a contracting authority to consider the societal, environmental and economic wellbeing of the area in which it operates.
Levers of change: As mentioned in section 7.1, agri-environment policy for post-2024 is in development. The Scottish Forestry Strategy has a clear vision for protecting and enhancing biodiversity but acknowledges that past plantings of monocultures with species such as Sitka spruce have not delivered this goal. However, both sectors may require additional support to deal with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for example through reducing livestock numbers and reducing soil disturbance during planting and harvesting, and the aim to reduce imports of products that harm biodiversity elsewhere. The Scottish Government has clear commitments to delivering sustainable land use in support of sustainable development and a Just Transition, but additional policy levers, such as a protected voice for communities during planning, may be needed to ensure all dimensions of justice are taken into account in land planning and transactions that may increasingly be driven by desire to access new environmental markets, e.g., for carbon. Similarly, a Just Transition has to be the focus of changes in coastal communities brought about by changes in fishing as climate change, biodiversity and fisheries management approaches develop. Overall, there is a need to specify a framework that balances within Scotland environmental impacts against impacts overseas caused by our activities. Is it justifiable to restore Scottish biodiversity whilst destroying that elsewhere? As noted previously, across the wider economy there has to be a reduction in overall consumption of materials, energy and products, which requires a systemic change in the value systems associated with consumerism and increased economic growth in Scotland. There should be a move away from ownership models to usership models that create public luxury for all, rather than private luxury for some (Hickel 2020; Höysniemi and Salonen 2019). There also has to be a switch from planned obsolescence to repairability (Bourgoignie 2020; Dutz et al., 2020) and there is potential for further improvement in public procurement policies.
7.3. Structural Transition – Implications for Nature of Sectoral Shifts (composition effects)
International: There is a complex interaction between GDP and environmental degradation, for instance as “GDP per capita increases, pollution concentrations rise then fall” (IPBES 2019a, pg. 85). The latter is achieved through technological innovation combined with a demand for improved living conditions. However, it has also meant the offshoring of ‘dirty’ industries (see section 7.6). For instance, the ability to expand the area of land under native woodland reflects the ability to import forest products from elsewhere.
Scotland: An emerging driver that may pose a risk to Scottish biodiversity is the carbon market, with investors buying land to speculate on rises in carbon markets and potentially managing in a way that impacts biodiversity. Engagement in agri-environment schemes also correlates to afforestation and renewable energy production and seeing the benefits to the environment can lead to farmers’ involvement in other agri-environmental activities (Sutherland et al., 2016). Similarly, Scottish farmers already operating forestry and involved in diversification, as well as newer entrants, are more likely to intend to expand woodland (Hopkins et al., 2017).
Levers of change: As for sections 7.1 and 7.2, post-2024 Scottish agri-environment policy is in the process of development. However, in planning policy around land and sea use account should be made to integrate biodiversity with more sustainable modes of production and how to balance impacts within Scotland with those created by Scottish demand but felt elsewhere. For example, the European Union is developing policies to ban parts of supply chains that cause deforestation with implications for the importation of animal feed and vegetable oil products. US policy on the protection of marine mammals has driven change in the Scottish salmon farming sectors, stopping seal shooting and the use of acoustic deterrent devices, and incentivising the use of seal-proof nets. Similar policies could be adopted in Scotland to restrict the use of products causing biodiversity loss in their production, for example by reducing the proportion of cereals fed to livestock (57% in 2017 for the UK as a whole).
7.4. Structural Transition – Concentrated Production
International: Globally supply chains are highly concentrated for many agricultural products; for example, ten importers control over 60% of the coffee trade (IPBES 2019a, pg. 85). It has been calculated supermarkets receive more than 90% of the profits from some common foods, leaving little for the producers. Even in industries where processing is carried out close to raw material production, such as the garment industry, consolidation of retailers has led to a shift in power within the supply chain driving down prices. This concentration allows a few retailers to control raw material prices, so that to remain profitable, producers may have to increase production with negative impacts on biodiversity.
Scotland: Retailers have the ability to control prices with two potential impacts for biodiversity; price controls may force growers to increase production to boost profits with potential negative impacts on biodiversity, water quality etc. or customer demand for higher environmental standards may drive production into more sustainable practices (Yue et al., 2020). However, demand for food from consumers, mediated through retailers, will drive the choices of food produced, and hence environmental impacts, unless there is government intervention or retailers take action to drive food supply to more environmentally sustainable practices. It should be noted that a significant proportion of the cereal output in Scotland goes to distilling and brewing rather than food production (spring barley was grown on 48% of cereal growing land and approximate half of this is used in distilling). A range of certification schemes run within Scotland focussed on the agricultural and forestry sectors (see section 8.1 on Market interactions). There has been criticism that they have divergent and confusing standards, and some do little more than ensure compliance with legislation (Tregidga et al., 2019).
Levers of change: Reducing inequality and relative poverty will enable more of society to afford more environmentally and socially sustainably produced food and other products (which have environmental and social costs added in). Research in the Netherlands has suggested that to switch to sustainable food production, subsidies and VAT reduction could be deployed to make these products cheaper for consumers. Cooperation between national certification schemes would make it easier to export these sustainable products, and the development of quality schemes such as the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) to include sustainability would enhance their future utility.
7.5. Trade – Goods and Materials Flows
International: Flows of goods and raw material increases as consumption and production are separated geographically (IPBES 2019a, pg. 86). Impacts, including on biodiversity, related to resource extraction and production have shifted to countries where economies are based on industries such as coal and mineral extraction. Around 30% of threatened species have been linked to the impacts of global trade. Developed economies are driving biodiversity loss in other countries. Certification schemes can inform supply chain actors and consumers and, in return for increased prices, encourage a switch to more sustainable practices (see section 8.1). However, it may require legislation to enforce labelling or even ban goods and food produced in environmentally damaging ways.
Scotland: Exploitation of land and seas will continue, especially if there is a shift towards more local production to reduce international impacts. Consequently, there will be ongoing pressures on local biodiversity. However, a shift towards a more circular economy will decrease demands on new resource extraction. The UK is ranked 5th in the world in terms of exporting its biodiversity footprint to other countries (IPBES 2019a, pg. 89).
Levers of change: The Scottish Government has aimed at making Scotland a zero-waste society with a circular economy in order to minimise demands on primary resources whose extraction and energy used in production both impact biodiversity. However, there is a gap between this aim and actual recycling rates; household recycling rates were just 44.9% in 2019, but considerable proportions of this are incinerated (46% at the UK level), exported (19%) or sent to landfill (17%). Stronger legislation is one route to enforcing a switch to recyclable materials, whereas greater support to individual businesses and households to make recycling easier will also be needed. The upcoming deposit scheme will assist with this, but this is only a small step. There also has to be a switch from planned obsolescence to repairability (Bourgoignie 2020; Dutz et al., 2020). Flows of goods, especially food, may be affected by taxes focussed on carbon use, such as fuel taxes as additional taxes may increase the profitability of local production shifting impacts from offshore to onshore. Improvements in public procurement can also drive change in supply chains, as can enforcing labelling that shows the environmental impact of different goods.
7.6. Trade – Telecoupling and Spillovers: trade-offs embedded within the trading of goods
International: Telecouplings refer to socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances (Sun et al., 2017). Spillovers occur as a result of these telecouplings: effects of (seemingly unrelated) events in one region clearly are experienced in other regions (IPBES 2019a, pg. 87). Between one quarter and one half of the environmental impacts of consumption are felt in regions other than those in which consumption occurs, with 30% of threatened species linked to international trade.
Scotland: The relatively high imports of goods and raw materials means that Scottish consumption has negative impacts in other parts of the world leading to biodiversity loss, so efforts to improve sustainability should not mean that unsustainable practices increase elsewhere at the expense of environmental justice (IPBES 2019a; Lenzen et al., 2012). Figures at the UK level indicate that it is the fifth ranked country in terms of exporting its biodiversity impacts (IPBES 2019a). Reforestation can be seen as an opportunity to reduce the reliance on imported forest products. Conversely, some domestic industries, notably sea fishing, shellfish production, aquaculture and whisky are dependent on exports and hence the biodiversity impacts in Scotland are a result of consumption elsewhere. Moving to a circular economy should reduce external as well as internal impacts. During 2022 Scottish Government consulted on proposals for a Circular Economy Bill to drive progress towards a circular economy in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible, benefitting the environment by cutting waste and carbon emissions, benefitting the economy by improving productivity and opening up new markets, and benefitting communities by providing local employment opportunities.
Levers of change: Restoration of biodiversity should be analysed in terms of both its local and global impacts. For instance, shifting forest planting towards native woodland and away from production conifers externalises the impact of timber production to other countries. Such a shift should be accompanied by an analysis of these impacts and a recognition that global biodiversity may benefit from the continued focus on locally grown timber and increasing the current level of 73% self-sufficiency in timber production. Such an analysis could be extended to other sectors where the environmental impact of imported materials needs to be reported and displayed to customers, such as where livestock feed or biofuels are sourced. Likewise, increasing domestic markets for Scottish produce, whilst also improving certification schemes and moving towards a circular economy and a zero-waste society, will help to reduce the environmental footprint of Scotland and globally, reduce costs for businesses and enable consumers to make choices based on sustainability.
7.7. Financial Flows – Remittances
International: Remittances refer to monetary transfer to migrants’ places of origin. For a few countries these can be a substantial proportion of GDP (IPBES 2019a, pg. 90). Remittances raise disposable income, change consumption patterns and can promote land cover change and biodiversity loss through the growth of agricultural activities. However, in some cases it reduces the need for subsistence agriculture and reduces the pressure on land.
Scotland: The balance of remittance flows from the UK in 2018 according to World Bank estimates were £23,600M. This is double the flow of remittances into the UK.
Levers of change: Action would require returning to foreign exchange controls, which were removed in 1979, and restricting migrant labour opportunities.
7.8. Financial Flows – Financial Standards
International: Financial returns from investment do not recognise the contribution of nature and even encourage the depletion of natural capital (IPBES 2019a, pg. 90). International institutions can set a framework for the incorporation of social and environmental standards in investing and there has been a rise in the proportion of ‘responsible’ investment. However, developing appropriate metrics to help fund managers is a major challenge.
Scotland: A move away from GDP type indicators towards a ‘total wealth’ (economic, human and natural capital, Yamaguchi et al., 2019) approach would allow more balanced evaluations of national performance: the development of the Natural Capital Asset Index (McKenna et al., 2019) is a step along this process, whilst a range of indicators have been put forward for evaluating national performance, including the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (Stockhammer et al., 1997) and the Genuine Progress Indicator (Kubiszewski et al., 2013). However, there is not yet agreement on how GDP should be replaced. Meanwhile, the financial resources of private actors are often invested based purely on projections of relatively short-term financial returns, with little or no account for how the activities ultimately enabled are degrading or protecting the environment.
Levers of change: Switching the metrics used for economic decision making away from narrow monetary based ones such as GDP at the national level would make a clear statement that could be followed by other economic actors. As part of this process, Scotland is a founding member of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) group, a collaboration of national and regional governments promoting sharing of expertise and transferrable policy practices with the aim of deepening understanding and advancing shared ambition to build wellbeing economies. Similarly, to shape the decisions of private actors and investors, ensuring information about companies’ environmental impacts and compliance with meaningful Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) standards will helpfully shift the actions of large investors such as pension schemes. Encouraging consideration of natural capital as important as types of capital such as human capital and financial capital may also shift internal business planning. The EU’s Taxonomy Regulation is a move to direct investment towards sustainable economic activities and to protect economies, businesses and societies from climate and other environmental shocks. It has, however, been criticised for its inclusion of nuclear power and natural gas as sustainable energy sources. In addition, the Financial Stability Board of the G20 created the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures to develop recommendations on the information that companies should disclose to lenders, investors and underwriters to assess and price climate change and nature-related, respectively, associated risks.
7.9. Financial Flows – Tax Havens
International: Tax havens play a significant role in the global economy but have been implicated in funding illegal fishing and deforestation (IPBES 2019a, pg. 91). Funding through tax havens is implicated in 70% of fishing vessels implicated in illegal and unregulated fisheries and provided 70% capital for Amazonian soy and beef production (Galaz et al., 2018). The UK, in association with its overseas territories, and a handful of OECD countries are the jurisdictions most responsible for undermining the ability of governments across the world to meaningfully tax multinational corporations. An estimated $500 billion in corporate tax is avoided each year globally by multinational corporations (Corporate Tax Haven Index). A proportion of this missed government income could be spent on environmental protection and restoration.
Scotland: Like all countries, financial flows into tax havens negatively impact government incomes that could be used for biodiversity protection, directly or indirectly. Also, companies based in tax-havens own large amount of property in Scotland and avoid paying taxes like inheritance tax and capital gains tax.
Levers of change: In November 2021, 141 countries and jurisdictions signed up to a new two-part plan to reform international taxation rules and ensure that multinational enterprises pay a fair share of tax wherever they operate. The signatories of the members of the OECD/G20 inclusive Framework on BEPS (base erosion and profit shifting) include a number of countries identified as centres of tax avoidance. The effectiveness of this needs monitoring and mechanisms improved. Reforming registers of land ownership to avoid money laundering and reform of the tax system would allow for more taxation to be spent on environmental protection and restoration.
8. Politics, Institutions and Governance
8.1. Market Interactions
International: Certification schemes have been developed to inform supply chain actors and consumers with the aim that producers will switch to more sustainable practices in return for higher prices (IPBES 2019a, pg. 91). For forest products, efforts have been made to reduce the import of illegally harvested timber through the EU’s FLEGT (Forest Law, Environment, Governance and Trade Mechanism). However, there is a concern that as schemes become more popular standards could be driven down or that schemes multiply meaning consumers may not understand what different certification schemes entail.
Scotland: A number of certification schemes run within Scotland including the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes responsible forest management worldwide, Soil Association certification for organic and sustainable production, Red Tractor Farm Assurance, focussed on animal welfare, food safety, traceability and environmental protection, the LEAF Marque, which is aimed at growing food sustainably and caring for the environment and the Marine Stewardship Council, which aims to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognising and rewarding sustainable fishing practices. Certification for aquaculture is a recent addition through the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. There has been criticism that farming certification schemes in the UK have divergent standards and that some do little more than ensure compliance with minimum legislation.
Levers of change: The weakness of certification schemes is that they address only a narrow spectrum of response to the negative impacts of resource production. Certification bodies should expand their coverage to cover all aspects of production; for instance, classifications such as Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) could be extended to cover the source of feed for livestock. Government and agencies could work with these certification schemes to drive up standards and to ensure certificates are broadly focussed and that claims are backed up by evidence. Scotland’s Climate Assembly has already highlighted ‘carbon-labelling’ as a way of informing consumers. A challenge needing more research is how to accessible present or combine multiple considerations or certifications schemes on one product.
8.2. Local Community Coordination
International: Commons or collective property/usage arrangements are seen as an important means of managing land and marine resources sustainably (Ostrom, 2000). Community-based management can be more responsive and adaptive if common pool resources are threatened (in management and local governing institutions). State institutions are important in local/regional/global common-pool resources such as fisheries and the management of common land to develop consensus, regulation and to ensure compliance (IPBES 2019a, pg. 93).
Scotland: Historically, there has been a huge loss of common lands (commonties) to private estates (Wightman, 2015), very little exists of the once extensive commons in Scotland except for the Crofting Common Grazing in the West Highlands and Islands (7% of Scotland’s total land area). The significance of common property/management for sustainable rural development has been recognised (Ostrom 2000, Brown and Slee, 2004) and is supported through the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, as well as the setting up of the Scottish Land Commission and the Scottish Land Fund. Community management of freshwater resources are different in that fishing rights are private property. A range of entities are involved including District Salmon Fishery Boards and a range of Rivers/Fisheries Trusts under the umbrella of Fisheries Management Scotland. The closest equivalent in the management of sea fisheries is the allocation of quotas by Marine Scotland (and others), however, there have been calls to ensure that in future quotas are shared more fairly.
Levers of change: Improvements in biodiversity management could be achieved through enhanced local and regional democracy through people’s assemblies and adaptive co-management agreements. This is in line with the wider appetite for a reinvigoration of democracy across Scotland and greater local control of decision making. Similarly, councils could invest in more community engagement and support existing mechanisms for biodiversity enhancement. Continued support to diversify rural land ownership and community ownership will also be necessary as will strengthening the legislation surrounding the Landowners Rights and Responsibility guidance. Public landowners have a significant role to play in demonstrating good practice. Biodiversity governance in Scotland is under review as part of the next Biodiversity Strategy. Current governance structures largely involve NatureScot staff, policy representatives, staff from other government agencies, scientists and staff from some major NGOs, but in line with the review of local governance, having more decision making and more resources at a local level appears to be a desired outcome. Strengthening integration between, as well as community and other stakeholder involvement through Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups and Marine Planning Partnerships would be a positive move, but these have both been criticised for their lack of statutory footing and there have been calls for additional involvement of independent marine scientists in reviewing the evidence used to set quotas.
8.3. Property Rights and Resource-Use Rights
International: Outside of protected areas, the effectiveness of initiatives for biodiversity are often affected by property rights and land holding structures, with short-term leases leading to damage, as well as lower levels of investment, and the sustainability of commons affected by the strength of local institutions (IPBES 2019a, pg. 95).
Scotland: Within a Scottish context shared resource-use/property rights (e.g., commons) may complicate agri-environment scheme implementation. Tenant farmers’ rights have been highlighted as potentially affecting sustainable land management across the UK (Rodgers 2019), with short-term lets potentially increasing exploitation in some situations, though in others there may have been less agricultural intensification. Tenant farmers may lack incentives to manage land for benefits that are only realised in the long-term or may not benefit from certain uses of land. Management of living marine resources is also an example of management of a shared resource. Over-exploitation and destructive fishing techniques have seriously degraded some marine ecosystems (Hall-Spencer and Moore 2000; Heath and Speirs 2012, Thurstan et al., 2010). In response sea fisheries have been managed under a range of structures with some species subject to quotas set and agreed internationally (previously in the EU Common Fisheries Policy) and then others where quotas are developed and overseen by Marine Scotland.
Levers of change: There has to be a strengthening of local institutions and structures through mechanisms such as Regional Land Use Partnerships. Agri-environment support should be adapted to incentivise all land managers (including tenant farmers) to adopt sustainable practices and restore biodiversity. Institutions are in place to manage marine resources to prevent over-exploitation but a shift to include ecosystem restoration would have biodiversity, carbon and fishing benefits (Pikesley et al., 2021). Competition for space in the sea between energy and fishing puts pressure on fisheries and may reduce the scope for fishers to compromise on spatial measures for biodiversity. Regional bodies, including Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups and Marine Planning Partnerships, could help facilitate this process in a way that integrates consideration of fisheries with wider marine management, but would require substantial reform to provide for effective resource management (including stakeholder engagement), and greater clarity over how the national and regional systems should operate together.
8.4. Transportation Investments (by context)
International: Transport costs associated with (for example) road networks affect economic activity and associated environmental impacts (IPBES 2019a, pg. 95). Areas which are well-connected (based on links to ports and ‘transport corridors’) have tended to see economic benefits. Roads also support agricultural development, contributing to environmental and ecosystem degradation in some cases. However, different transport and economic contexts can have distinct impacts: it is least harmful to expand transport in areas which are already developed.
Scotland: Transport infrastructure is only slowly expanding in Scotland, mainly in the form of the A9 and A96 dualling schemes. However, it has been pointed out that projects like these lead to damage through direct habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and pollution. Other infrastructure outlined in the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) is also likely to have negative impacts on biodiversity, for example, pumped storage schemes, electrical transmission infrastructure and new harbour developments. However, NPF4 indicates that all developments should contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity and that impacts should be minimised. Habitats created during development such as road verges can make a positive contribution to biodiversity if managed appropriately and urban developments can work with existing biodiversity and enhance it.
Levers of change: Investment in public transport and public services and shifting values from personal ownership of things to ‘shared abundance’ would reduce the impact of transport and associated infrastructure. This could be achieved by increased funding for public transport, reduced or abolition of fares, or increased taxation for personal transport. However, there is potential for inequity as rural populations will have less opportunity to use public transport and hence require vehicle ownership. One partial fix to this problem is to tax car entry to urban areas or parking to pay for public transport alternatives; for instance, Nottingham has a workplace parking levy. The introduction of a 15-minute city policy where all people’s needs are met within 15-minute walk would reduce the need for transportation and therefore reduce its impacts. This has been adopted in Paris. Scotland has suggested a 20-minute neighbourhood in the National Planning Framework 4.
8.5. Subsidies to Fuels (Impact on economic and technological)
International: Subsidies to fossil fuels are widely prevalent, persistent over time and divert money from the rest of government spending (IPBES 2019a, pg. 96). This has driven impacts on biodiversity through land/sea use change, pollution and climate change.
Scotland: Fossil fuel use is recognised as a major component of greenhouse gas emissions and hence climate change, and as such it is recognised that fossil fuel use has to be massively reduced. Fossil fuel extraction is a major part of Scotland’s economy, but any subsidies for and taxes of extraction are set by the UK government. In the UK, subsidies for fossil fuel use are provided to industry, whilst consumer fuel use is not directly subsidised. The UK appears to have subsidised fossil fuels by $17 billion in 2019. Oil and gas producing companies are subject to a special taxation regime paying a special rate of corporation tax (30%) that is higher than the standard rate of corporation tax but reduced by allowances for capital expenditure and decommissioning costs. The Petroleum Revenue Tax on profits from oil and gas production within the UK continental shelf has been zero rated since 2016. The UK government has recently been reluctant to raise taxes on fuels, due to worries on fuel-poverty and dependence on car use. Domestic fuel has a reduced VAT rate (5%), road fuel is taxed at a flat rate and there is no tax on aviation fuel.
Levers of change: Increasing taxation on fossil fuels would drive down consumption, but mechanisms would be needed to compensate less-wealthy households to allay any regressive consequences (Feng et al., 2010). This could be done through cash transfers or allowances. A significant use of fossil fuels is for domestic heating, though Scotland has just removed subsidies for new gas and oil boilers, whilst the UK government is subsidising the installation of ground/air source heat pumps, though this has been critiqued as vastly insufficient to enable change at sufficient pace and scale. The example of other countries suggest more could be done to mobilise change (Martiskainen et al., 2021), including but not limited to more subsidies and training of professional installers and advisors. Increasing insulation and other efficiency measures in new housing and retrofitting older houses would substantially reduce carbon emissions from homes. Taxing aviation fuel would also reduce emissions from a significant sector; equity considerations would need to be taken into account, but this is generally much less regressive than taxing other fuels. Reducing energy use by transport is also required, e.g., by multi-sectoral cooperation to encourage modal shifts and decarbonisation of transport systems.
8.6. Protected Areas and Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Lands/Participation
International: Globally, policies, institutions and governance for biodiversity have predominantly focused on designating and managing protected areas to protect threatened species and habitats (IPBES 2019a, pg. 97). Approximately 15% of land and 7% of the sea are protected in some form globally. Challenges to this approach are both enforcement (paper parks) and siting (locating them where socially convenient).
Scotland: Scotland has relatively strong policies and enabling instruments focused on protection of threatened species and habitats including the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, The Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994, legislation relating to Environmental Impact Assessments, Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 as well as associated legislation such as The Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 and The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011. Overall policy direction is set out in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and the 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity and overseen by the Biodiversity Programme Board. Scotland has a relatively high proportion of its land (22.7%) and seas (37%) designated for nature protection. Of terrestrial and coastal designated sites, 78.3% were in ‘favourable condition’ in March 2021. However, there are concerns by marine scientists that insufficient management measures (limiting damaging activities) in Marine Protected Areas limits the recovery of non-target species and habitats (Langton et al., 2020). The most frequently cited negative pressures on protected sites on land that prevent or threaten achievement of favourable status are (1) invasive species, (2) over-grazing, (3) water management, (4) recreation/disturbance and (5) under-grazing. Data are lacking and lagging for non-coastal marine protected areas and recent assessments have concluded that good environmental status is not being achieved across the UK, including for Scotland’s seas. Some Marine Protected Areas have largely been designated in areas where the seabed is too rough for bottom trawling so have made little difference to the area trawled (Langton et al., 2020). MPAs are threatened by physical and chemical damages caused by human activities at sea (fishing, aquaculture, coastal development) and on land (agriculture, pollution, littering), as well as by invasive non-native species. The creation of strict Marine Protected Areas with no fishing in collaboration with the fishing industry and local communities could offer the opportunity to improve fish stocks through the creation of safe spawning areas (Cabral et al., 2019) and preventing disturbance to benthic sediments could also lead to carbon storage in sediments (Luisetti et al., 2019) though the degree of benefit is uncertain (Legge et al., 2020) and needs to be linked to a Just Transition.
Outside of the National Parks there is little opportunity for local communities to be directly involved in decision-making in protected areas. However, local communities, such as the crofting communities of the Hebrides, have played a considerable part in the long-term protection of rare habitats such as machair (Pakeman et al., 2011).
Levers of change: The Scottish Government has committed to 30 by 30, i.e. 30% of its lands and its seas protected for nature by 2030. However, it has been called on to ensure that this protection is (a) for the long-term and (b) that protected sites are well managed and in good condition. The Scottish Government has committed to designating at least 10% of its seas as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HMPAs), but it has been called on to also do this for the land area of Scotland and to increase its spend on monitoring of condition. Involving, educating and empowering local peoples is an important complement to designating protected areas but community involvement is currently missing from the management of most protected areas except for National Parks.
8.7. Payments for Ecosystem Services and Other Incentives
International: Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) and agri-environment schemes (AES) have been designed to aid conservation on private lands, aligning private goals with public goals, making these an option for governments to complement protected areas (IPBES 2019a, pg. 98). They have usually been based on action-based conditionality, i.e., payment for actions taken, rather than for results achieved. However, globally PES/AES results have been generally unsatisfactory, with AES across Europe having had a relatively weak or minor influence on biodiversity reversing the long-standing policy, market and cultural support for farming focused on maximising production of crops (Batáry et al., 2015). Targeting schemes may help as may developing collaborative schemes to cover large areas.
Scotland: There are very few examples of strict PES in Scotland partially due to a -pre-existing strong regulatory context. In the last decade Defra commissioned diverse PES pilots which have not been directly continued but have informed some debates about current post-CAP agri-environment policy. Across the UK, some water companies are paying or reimbursing land managers to improve soil and land management in order to reduce pollution and sediment loading. AES schemes have been in operation for over three decades in Scotland but there are limited data on their effectiveness on terrestrial biodiversity (Pakeman et al., 2020), though actions such as the creation of buffer strips help aquatic biodiversity (Cole et al., 2020).
There is a current trend for land to be bought to use for carbon offsetting and there is likewise developing interest in seaweed farming. Land is purchased with a view to either making an economic return from the developing carbon market or to balance against emissions from the rest of a business. This has been labelled “greenwashing” by those who fear that it covers up continued emissions elsewhere or, as said by Greta Thunberg, “a dangerous climate lie”. The arguments for this suggest that using a natural capital approach to attract funding means that nature-based solutions could be funded to remove emissions, but the counter argument is that they are a mechanism to allow the status quo of current emissions to continue. There is concern that land acquisition for carbon offsetting will increase land prices and rents, displace local communities and exacerbate an already highly financialised land market. The latter may be an explicit part of the business model for some land purchases. This trend runs counter to the Just Transition Commission which recently noted, “part of ensuring a just transition must be about making sure the benefits of investment in carbon sequestration are felt as widely as possible”.
Levers of change: Current discussions about reforming agricultural subsidies offer the potential for significantly more support for sustainability in future. A shift to results-based payments offers more agency to land managers with the potential to bring innovation into conservation management. Similarly, a focus on natural capital such as in NatureScot’s Natural Capital Pilot Programme (NCAPP) may provide a more rounded objective and a shift to more collaborative actions may enhance the conservation of species and habitats that need a landscape-scale approach (Emery and Franks, 2012).
There are international agreements to shift to a global carbon market, including in the COP26 finalisation of Article 6 test from the Paris Agreement, which will drive the purchase of land for offsetting. However, there are already levers available to allow local communities to play a role in this with the ‘Community Right to Buy’, but this will struggle if land prices continue to increase. A significant drive for tree planting may result in biodiversity loss from open habitats. Extending the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment prior to afforestation to areas outside protected areas would allow for potential biodiversity trade-offs to be assessed and to prevent planting in areas where planting could release carbon from soils (Friggens et al., 2020; Matthews et al., 2020, Warner et al., 2021). A reduction in Scotland’s overall energy and resource consumption will reduce the need to make difficult trade-offs between climate change mitigation, biodiversity loss and food production.
8.8. Choosing Policy Instruments
International: There is a basic choice between regulatory or incentive-based instruments, with many options within those categories (IPBES 2019a, pg. 99). Both types are complemented by a third type of instrument, guidance and voluntary standards. However, there are uncertainties about the performance of many policy instruments. Economists generally agree that where effects of a regulation must exceed a certain threshold, it is better to use ‘cap-and-trade’ instruments (that limit e.g., total number of fish extracted, maximum amount of pollution) rather than a price policy (that fixes prices to changed behaviour). It is important that economic measures are not the sole focus; for example, guidance and interventions that encourage collaboration and cooperation should not be overlooked (cf. fisheries management).
Scotland: Restriction of the intensity of resource use has allowed many marine fisheries to recover (Hopkins et al., 2016) but the overall status of biodiversity in marine habitats is still poorly understood and pressures such as bottom trawling continue. Fishery policy development has often put fishers in opposition to the government, and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), and there have been calls to include additional independent review and information from monitoring non-target marine species and habitats. As mentioned in section 8.7, there is a substantial risk that the drive for net-zero will lead to land purchases solely for carbon offsetting, and there is potential for impacts on biodiversity if this is not regulated properly.
Levers of change: Existing policy statements such as the Landowners Rights and Responsibility guidance and the Future Fisheries Management Strategy could be strengthened to make it a legal requirement to engage with communities on decision making, and confidence within the sector could be improved through additional independent scientific review of the data used to develop fishing quotas. Payments to fishing communities to replace fishing with marine monitoring whilst marine habitats and fisheries recover could contribute towards safeguarding livelihoods and communities into the future. Regulations could be strengthened by a biodiversity impact assessment across the budget and portfolio of all Scottish Government’s directorates to explore the impact of budgetary decisions on nature and biodiversity. In effect, there should be better policy integration so that decisions to bring benefit in one policy arena do not cause disbenefits in others. See section 8.7 for levers affecting the carbon market and a Just Transition.
8.9. Wealth-based and Race-based Differences
International: Equity is an important but complex issue related to development and biodiversity impacts (IPBES 2019a, pg. 99). For example, shifting to less polluting industries may disproportionately negatively affect low-income households even though those households may be directly impacted by that pollution. In a similar economic sense, a drive to increased efficiency (to increase profits) may drive out agricultural small holders or artisanal fishers. Therefore, there may be resistance to change based on a need for households to focus on basic security, but it should be recognised that some of this resistance may be beneficial to biodiversity and in other circumstances cause impacts.
Scotland: The UK has a relatively high income/wealth inequality compared to other developed countries (OECD, 2020a), with income inequality increasing in the 10-year period leading to 2020 (ONS, 2020). There is evidence showing that reducing inequality reduces the societal ecological footprint as inequality encourages excessive consumption (Mikkelson et al., 2007; Pickett and Wilkinson, 2010; Hickel, 2020). Research has demonstrated that with regards to well-being, relative income is the key factor, explaining why well-being does not increase with increasing GDP, once basic needs are met (Kahneman et al., 2006). The impacts of shifting to more sustainable behaviours could disproportionately impact low-income families who will be affected most by increases in fuel or food prices. However, they would be similarly affected by increases in the scarcity of resources and the reductions in the levels of societal benefits from declining biodiversity. Clearly, workers in the oil and gas sector will need to shift employment, but a highly skilled workforce should be seen as an asset to be redeployed rather than abandoned.
Levers of change: The Just Transition Commission has made a range of suggestions on making the transition to a greener, net-zero Scotland a fair one, including the need to move beyond GDP as it fails to account for resource or biodiversity degradation. To enable the whole of society to transition either direct support could be given to low-income households or income and wealth inequalities and relative poverty in Scotland could be reduced through strengthening and improving workers’ rights, introducing fairer progressive taxation, public investment in health, transport, social services and education and skills, and closing loopholes in tax avoidance and tax havens.
8.10. Policy Responses (rights, subsidies)
International: The restriction of rights to extract fisheries/forests can be an efficient mechanism to balance nature and human basic needs, whilst a lack of agreed rights and restrictions can cause environmental degradation (IPBES 2019a, pg. 101). However, any approach to reduce or manage rights has equity implications as poorer individuals tend to lose out when access or effort is limited. The demand for resources from the global north has led to ecological decline in other regions, including from deforestation, over-fishing or from the environmental degradation surrounding mineral extraction.
Scotland: Many marine fish stocks collapsed in the 1990s, but this crisis did spur some progress in collective working by fishers and government, and improved quota-setting (Carter 2014) with much of the Scottish pelagic industry now Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified. However, there are still serious concerns by fisheries scientists of the impact of demersal fishing on non-target species, such as benthic communities, especially when there are no measures in place to protect these communities (Langton et al., 2020). In freshwaters, salmon and recreational fisheries have governance mechanisms, with fishery boards and trusts working to improve and increase already very diminished stocks through measure such as catch and release, alongside work to address issues relating to sea lice associated with aquaculture. Stocks of salmon are still declining rapidly, rod catches in 2018 had declined to less than half those in 2010. The UK imports 60% of its timber needs (Scotland’s Forestry Strategy 2019-2029). Scotland is better placed as it net imports only 27% of its needs. These needs are predicted to grow at the same time as global demand and this demand is one of the drivers behind woodland expansion in Scotland.
Levers of change: Marine fisheries management has historically largely focussed on protecting and enhancing the stocks of exploited species. However, there is a move towards management that focusses on protecting non-target species and habitats, as well as protecting marine biodiversity and increasing carbon sequestration and storage with management measures. Broadening participation in management decisions through the involvement of a wider range of stakeholders (e.g., coastal communities) may improve equity in decision making. The establishment of Regional Land Use Partnerships, as set out in Scotland’s Third Land Use Strategy, and similarly Marine Planning Partnerships could play an enhanced role in local decision making, but care should be taken that membership is balanced so that vested interests do not dominate decision making.
8.11. Equity and Environmental/Energy Taxes (context dependence)
International: The taxation of harmful commodity use, including fossil fuels, is generally regressive as all households have need for heating/cooling/transport so raising taxes to restrict use has equity implications (IPBES 2019a, pg. 102).
Scotland: There is a need to shift away from the use of fossil fuels and taxation is a proven and simple lever. However, to ensure a Just Transition to a more sustainable future and to accelerate plans for decarbonising the economy ways should be found to ensure equity and provide support to all sectors of the population (Feng et al., 2010).
Levers of change: The Just Transition Commission has highlighted that a transition to net-zero has to “ensure costs are distributed on the basis of ability to pay”. As well as distributing costs on an equitable basis it means that the transition is not slowed by a lack of capital available to lower income households to fund their necessary steps towards net-zero. This could be done through direct support or by reducing income and wealth inequality in order to reduce the burden of transitioning the economy and energy sector on the poorest. See also section 8.5.
8.12. Global Coordination
International: Global governance is especially important for the management of common goods from which users or countries cannot easily be excluded, such as fisheries, and harms which have a shared impact (e.g., GHGs, IPBES 2019a, pg. 103). However, there has been a range of success in their implementation. One successful example is the Montreal Protocol to reduce CFC use, but others have been less successful. For example, the Ramsar Convention on wetland protection has not stopped the loss of mangroves, whilst the Helsinki Water Convention on the use of transboundary waters lacks any enforcement. ‘Non-environmental’ policies and institutions have generally given little consideration to biodiversity so tend to degrade nature, whilst environmental policies and institutions have long been relatively weak and under-resourced (e.g., Vig and Kraft, 2012). Non-environmental policy goals may be supported by significant resources and a strong backing in regulation, whereas the policy mixes directly associated with environmental policies tend to rely more on voluntary persuasion backed by relatively inadequate resources for direct action by state bodies, or to incentivise others. In general, poorer countries are generally slower or less able to adopt global conventions. Agreements to allow environmental considerations to affect trade could arguably be more important for affecting sustainability than some of the more obvious ‘green’ conventions.
Scotland: The UK is a signatory to all major conventions including the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), often a key player in negotiating them and usually reasonably diligent in following the requirements of those Conventions. Scotland influences such agreements either indirectly through the UK or directly as part of UK delegations, and generally is an enthusiastic and committed implementer of commitments, and indeed may exceed them, as in the area of carbon targets. Our exit from the EU means our influence on and coordination with regional agenda setting, such as on biodiversity loss, is reduced, although in the marine environment the OSPAR Convention (as the relevant Regional Seas Convention) is now becoming more prominent. There remains the possibility that leaving the EU will allow stricter regulation, for example on phytosanitary checks. Environmental Policy Integration (EPI) – embedding environmental issues within other policy areas – has received great rhetorical support internationally, and the UK has been relatively progressive in supporting it (Russel and Jordan, 2010). However, changes to embed environmental considerations into other policies have been slow (Jordan and Lenschow, 2010). Departments such as the UK Treasury wield significant power and tend not to consider sustainability as a core concern (Craig, 2020). Scotland is now making progress in embedding sustainability across sectors, e.g., by considering if and how natural capital can support policy processes, but it is still in the early stages of attempting to reform governance systems for sustainability.
Levers of change: Many of the conventions and policies mentioned above are already positive levers of change. They could in theory be improved or strengthened but doing so may depend on fostering international cooperation and responsibility. Whilst useful progress can be made by concerted international diplomacy this is also slow, and so it would be risky to rely on international conventions (as witnessed the specific agreements reached during the recent COP26). Therefore, Scotland should focus on strengthening and improving its policies, cooperating with the UK where necessary to do so, regardless of international requirements, including integrating consideration of biodiversity and ecosystem services across all policy areas. If Scotland can demonstrate the potential of an industrialised country with a low Biodiversity Intactness Index to reverse trends without shifting its impacts overseas, this in turn could spur further international progress. Supported by the Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity, some cities and regions have become key players, for example, making commitments and plans for climate neutrality that exceed national requirements and commitments – so working at this scale may be a useful new approach to complement existing levers and approaches for biodiversity. The signatories of the Edinburgh Declaration on the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework include many municipalities and regions.
8.13. Political systems
International: This is not covered by the IPBES report as the international community is made up of countries with different government systems.
Scotland: Within existing democracies there is evidence that deliberative democracies (where decisions are the product of fair and reasonable discussion) are more effective than representative democracies at decision making (Curato et al., 2017), especially with regard to complex environmental and sustainability policy issues (Dryzek and Niemeyer 2019; Dryzek et al., 2019; OECD, 2020b). Representative democracies (elected) tend to be self-selecting (e.g., capture by elites) which can reinforce structural power imbalances, leading to vested interests being further represented and compounded (Van Reybrouk, 2016). For example, vested interests such as oil companies have delayed global responses to climate change (Franta 2021) and housing developers have slowed down the transition to zero-carbon homes (Edmonson et al., 2020). It has been argued that increasing the role of deliberative democratic processes could mitigate power inequalities by reducing the influence of wealth, land ownership, the media and other vested interest groups, reduce corruption and help decentralise decision making. This would be helped by reforming political funding and improving political access for those outside vested interests. The recent success of citizen panels in the Republic of Ireland have shown the potential of these groups to make policy recommendations (Courant, 2021) as has the recent Climate Assembly in Scotland.
Levers of change: Introduce deliberative democratic processes (citizens’ and people's assemblies) to improve decision-making on land use and complex, interconnected environmental and social issues. Citizens could be requested to attend like the current jury service and/or compensated for any loss of earnings.
9.1. Traditional Technologies (Indigenous and Local Knowledge)
International: The IPBES report considers indigenous knowledge and technology through a developing country lens using exemplars from Andean and Mesoamerican contexts, Australian indigenous groups and traditional herders in Africa (IPBES 2019a, pg. 79). Nothing specifically relates to local and experiential knowledge in industrialised contexts in this subsection.
Scotland: Despite their omission from the IPBES report, local and experiential knowledges are increasingly valued in industrialised, richer nations in regard to natural resource management (Ainsworth et al., 2020). The value of local knowledges has been frequently explored in relation to socio-technical issues in land management (e.g., Wynne, 1996) and within Scotland considerable local knowledge resides in groups such as crofters, farmers, fishers, foresters and gamekeepers.
Levers of change: The incorporation of local and experiential knowledge can contribute to better decision making. This potentially entails decentralising decision-making, e.g., to landscape or catchment levels. The Regional Land Use Partnerships offer a potential model but lack resources or rights to influence action. Scotland has three Marine Planning Partnerships with a further three in the process of being established. Membership of these and similar groups should be diverse to avoid local vested interests dominating decision making, include independent members who can contribute a wider perspective and ensure short-term profitability does not counter long-term sustainability. Extending these initiatives for complete coverage would be beneficial to the inclusivity.
9.2. Significant Transitions in Agriculture
International: The transformation of natural ecosystems to agricultural systems, paralleled with the expansion of human settlements within urbanisation, are historical developments at the centre of the global decline in biodiversity (Johnson et al., 2017). They comprise socio-technical accomplishments, and it is difficult to overstate the influence of technological innovation to this ongoing decline. Technology has driven increasing agricultural yields but at the expense of agrobiodiversity and hence dietary diversity (IPBES 2019a, pg. 80). Production focussed agricultural extension helped drive the widespread loss of diverse, traditional farming systems, but the reduction of more enlightened Agricultural Knowledge and Advisory Services (AKIS) may hamper the spread of more sustainable approaches. The IPBES report also has some discussion about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) associating their use with potential land sparing gains (because of higher yields) but warning of ‘unpredictable effects’ to people’s health and farmer livelihoods. Productivity gains for insect resistant GMOs are said to be potentially higher in developing countries where pest pressure is highest but lower where pests are effectively controlled by conventional means.
Scotland: There is recognition that a lack of AKIS can slow the adoption of sustainable management practices. There is current debate on changing post-Brexit handling of GMOs as the UK Government held a consultation in 2021 on diverging from strict EU rules, however there is increasing awareness of the problems that antibiotics and pesticides can cause for the environment and human health. Farmer opposition to GMOs is likely to come from small and artisanal farming where the benefits of different technology are less likely to be felt. The Scottish Government’s position remains as against the use of GMOs to protect Scotland’s green credentials. Poorer diets (in terms of variety) shaped by agricultural intensification are the subject of increasing focus in Europe (Robertson et al., 2004). The potential use of vertical farms on derelict urban land has the potential to spare more land than the use of GMOs and could place food production nearer to centres of population (Beacham et al., 2019, Benke and Tompkins, 2017). However, this approach may shift power away from small-scale producers towards large-scale businesses and potential exacerbate demographic depletion in rural areas.
Levers of change: AKIS needs support to enable the agricultural sector to adopt both technological approaches such as precision farming that reduce inputs but also to develop farm plans that benefit biodiversity and other ecosystem services. This could also cover crop diversification to improve the balance between what is grown in Scotland and what is consumed. Similar arguments can be made to support forestry and agriculture.
9.3. Limited Transitions in Biomass Energy
International: Biomass energy is seen as having major negative impacts on biodiversity through overexploitation of resources for fuelwood, in particular, but these inexpensive and accessible sources of traditional biomass energy play a vital role in supporting poor populations (IPBES 2019a, pg. 81). The IPBES report covers the potential for technology leapfrogging (IPBES 2019a, pg. 56) whereby more environmentally destructive technologies may be avoided through newer advancements, such as shifting to renewable energy without a fossil fuel stage.
Scotland: Biomass energy is a potential source of power, but its use will be highly dependent on technological choices about the use of biofuels as a component of a sustainable, net zero emissions economy. Biomass energy is derived from forestry, agriculture and municipal waste and can be converted to methane, ethanol and biodiesel. Regarding potential biodiversity impacts, there is an important distinction to be made between forms of biomass that require dedicated land use (and might directly or indirectly displace natural ecosystems, Verdade et al., 2015) and those that come from waste and residual sources. For Scotland, the biggest threat from transitions in biomass energy to biodiversity is likely to be from land use change for biocrops grown as new monocultures.
Levers of change: Biomass production as a primary land use clearly competes with other land uses for land, whether those land uses are for food production, timber or biodiversity protection (Muscat et al. 2020). Controls over land use are indirect, but mechanisms should be developed to prevent local and internationally sourced biomass having negative impacts where it is harvested, for example through changing support or taxation to prevent the indirect damage caused by biofuel policies (Norton et al. 2019). There may still be a role for using waste or residual sources of biomass for energy generation (Evans et al. 2010).
9.4. Technological changes, and trade-offs, within urbanization and industry
International: Technological change is a double-edged sword creating a tension between technophobe and technophile views that needs to be reconciled. Technological change has helped drive biodiversity loss, from simple changes like seed cleaning to the use of pesticides. However, technological innovation may help drive more efficient and cleaner production, but there is recognition of potential issues regarding genetically modified organisms, widespread use of antibiotics and pesticides in agriculture and aquaculture as well as mining for lithium and rare-earth metals needed for batteries (IPBES 2019a, pg. 81). Innovations in transport tend to favour urban areas, but technology can reduce pollution, alleviate water scarcity and improve water quality, and allow a shift to renewable energy. However, there will be trade-offs such as wind turbines causing bird and bat mortality, or energy generation schemes such as hydropower directly causing habitat loss.
Scotland: Transitioning to a circular economy will reduce resource consumption; the reduction in imports will reduce Scotland’s offshore footprint. The installation of renewable power has many benefits, and it has meant that Scotland produces almost all its electricity consumption (97.4% in 2020) from renewable sources (mainly wind). However, it should be recognised that there is still the potential for a local trade-off between installations and biodiversity (Smith et al., 2018).
Levers of change: Every effort should be made to speed the transition away from fossil fuels, towards a circular economy and way from industrial processes that either emit high volumes of greenhouse gases and pollution or directly degrade biodiversity. The Fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) has explicit policies that should mean that future developments take account of the global climate and biodiversity emergencies. The adoption of new technologies should be supported only if their contribution is positive with regard to biodiversity, both locally and globally. Potential technologies that may be of use are waste reduction in the food supply chain through longer shelf life, better infrastructure and processing, precision agriculture, robotics and the use of GMOs. However, the capital investment required for technology innovation at the farm scale can lead to farm agglomeration and disfavour small farms, a trend which is not necessarily positive for biodiversity (Ricciardi et al., 2021). Furthermore, technological changes are unlikely to fix the degradation of nature alone as there has to be a change in lifestyles, particularly by the affluent (Wiedmann et al., 2020) who contribute substantially more to resource use than the rest of the population; the wealthiest one per cent of people in the UK each produce 11 times the amount of carbon emissions of someone in the poorest half of the population (Ivanova and Wood 2020).
10. A methodology for next steps in evaluating and addressing the indirect drivers in Scotland
Our project deliverables included a requirement to propose a methodology for the next steps in evaluating and addressing the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss in Scotland. Part of the specification was to incorporate how to identify and prioritise relevant levers for change and associated actions. The methodology needed to be applicable across Government bodies and other key players rather than be limited to work likely to be led by NatureScot.
The central challenge in devising a methodology that can be rolled-out to different project teams with varying skill sets and diverse constraints, whilst maintaining a level of consistency, and in this case, useability, for the project commissioner, is to provide a clear, systematic approach that is relatively straightforward. Furthermore, reversing Scotland’s biodiversity loss is a complex mission requiring an inclusive approach that engages stakeholders of different kinds. Lastly, proven methods that have been successfully applied to societal, environmental challenges, present obvious merits. Therefore, to fulfil this brief, we propose a hybrid methodology comprising elements of the Theory of Change (TOC) with Scenario Planning (SP) elements drawn from strategic foresight analysis Together, these approaches incorporate the well-developed structure of TOC alongside the creative engagement possibilities of SP, both proven in the field to reliably generate impactful results.
10.1 Theory of Change (TOC)
The term “Theory of Change” was popularised by Weiss (1998) to describe the set of assumptions that explain both the mini steps that need to be taken to achieve a final objective and the connections between intervention activities and outcomes that occur stepwise along the way. From community level initiatives at the Aspen Institute (Washington D.C.) in the 1990s the approach has been extended to apply to wide ranging societal, environmental, and political challenges.
This process can be summarised as identifying the causal pathways between outcomes via intermediate stages towards long-term goals. The methodology further defines the external factors influencing change along the major pathways enabling or constraining progress from one stage to the next. Contributing factors are characterised as drivers and assumptions. An evaluation strategy is implemented to track whether expected outcomes are actually produced.
Theory of Change seeks to capture and contextualise the intended logic of an intervention (UN Environment Programme, 2017). Its suitability for the task in hand derives from its well-structured approach complimented by systematic process mapping that can be replicated from one intervention project to another, allowing comparability and ease of interpretation for reviewers. Indeed, its origins are strongly associated with evaluation practice particularly around community initiatives, a context where we believe this method can be particularly, usefully applied.
This is an established method with primers (for example, Taplin and Heléne, 2012) and templates (for mechanism maps) readily available to download. Some analytical expertise is required but not highly specialist knowledge.
10.2 Scenario Planning (SP)
Scenario planning has been widely used in environmental planning, for example in the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (2011). IPBES also incorporate scenarios into their biodiversity report (IPBES 2019a). Amongst many forms, Scenario Planning can have a participatory, normative form. We suggest this variant of Scenario Planning to orientate stakeholder workshops towards envisaging both their long-term aspirations and concerns for a biodiverse Scotland. IPBES also recommends involving stakeholders in scenarios particularly around initial problem definition (IPBES 2019b). An example could be around envisioning versions of Scotland towards key time horizons such as 2050, where GDP as the go-to measure of economic prosperity has been relaxed and where different, plausible biodiversity related outcomes are elaborated. Many international examples are available to draw upon (Goudeseune et al., 2020).
Different techniques can be adopted but we advise adopting morphological analysis which has the flexibility to conceptualise multiple drivers and future conditions (for example, Mora et al., 2020). Scenario narratives co-constructed in participatory workshops, alongside illustrative infographics, can constitute powerful communication resources. A recent example can be found in Duckett et al., (2021).
10.3 Why a hybrid methodology?
TOC is intervention focussed and systematic providing a stepwise roadmap to change, whilst SP is focused on uncertainty, can be visionary with a creative and holistic edge, and is readily grasped by stakeholders. Together the two methods combine a systematic process which can be replicated across Government bodies and other key players as required and can be harnessed to engage different stakeholders and translated into impactful narratives and infographics. An example of this hybrid methodology was applied to a recent Horizon 2020 project by Piras et al., (2021).
The key features of our proposed approach are as follows:
- TOC/SP constitutes a rigorous, powerful, transparent, participatory process through which stakeholders can co-construct long-term goals and identify the conditions they believe have to unfold to meet them.
- Conditions can be modelled as desired outcomes, arranged graphically in a causal framework (TOC mechanism maps are widely available to download).
- Backwards mapping from long-term goal(s) is accomplished within TOC by sequentially working out the necessary preconditions or requirements for each advance.
- Assumptions about the system can be articulated through a combination of envisioning within participatory, creative SP workshops, and analytical TOC mapping.
- Indicators that take account of key transition points can be developed to measure progress.
- Weighing and choosing the most strategic interventions is facilitated and a ‘responsibility ceiling’ is defined to realistically set achievable objectives.
- Writing a scenario narrative and developing infographics to explain the summary logic of each initiative is enabled.
We believe that this hybrid methodological approach is a practical and useful way for future research to take the next steps in tackling the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss in Scotland. By co-constructing long-term goals and creating systematic plans and controls to achieve them, biodiversity losses can be evaluated and addressed, and relevant levers for change can be identified.
11. Identification of priorities for future research
A report of this nature can only briefly cover the wide spectrum of indirect drivers and the potential levers of change that could be pressed to reduce the pressures on biodiversity and allow restoration to be successful.
In putting together this report the authors, interviewees and workshop participants identified a number of research areas which would benefit future action. Some require new research, but others require a more in-depth analysis of existing work to address areas in more depth than possible in this document.
- It is necessary to understand the psychology of change and to draw lessons from how to bring about changes across the whole population, especially where changes may require wholesale lifestyle changes. Environmental Justice may provide a good “lens” to achieve this.
- Effort is necessary to counterbalance the lifestyles sold through advertising and marketing. This may have to be through better product labelling, for instance labelling to cover embedded carbon and biodiversity impacts, but other avenues may be more effective.
- Identifying the key actors, individuals and organisations, who can act as leverage points in increasing climate/nature literacy.
- How to increase the connectedness between people and nature in order to clarify the long-term benefits of what might be unpopular changes in lifestyles. A particular focus on urban populations will be necessary as the benefits of lifestyle changes to biodiversity may be less apparent in these situations.
- How can we support the Scottish population to make sustainable choices?
- How can we get lessons from groups of people who have made transitions to a more sustainable lifestyle or who are demonstrating good stewardship?
- Can we develop Scotland’s human capital and resilience to deliver the necessary responses to the biodiversity crisis?
- How can the education system be developed as a catalyst for change?
- Identification of a replacement to GDP as a performance indicator.
- How do we accelerate change in key industries such as oil and gas, aqua/agriculture, building and transport?
- We need to understand the distributions of costs and benefits during the economic transformation, where money from the public purse is going and how could it be spent most effectively in the future.
11.4 Politics, Institutions and Governance
- How to bring the biodiversity and climate crises to the top of the political agenda and to keep them there, potentially using participatory research to bring scientists and politicians together in nature.
- How best to bring the wider population into the decision-making process.
- It will be necessary to understand how decisions taken in different parts of the governance structures in Scotland cascade through. One issue with greater participation in decision-making is the increased costs of information collection and dissemination.
- How to ensure that changes in policy, regulation and legislation are clear in how they will benefit biodiversity.
- Identification of the key trade-offs between action for climate change and biodiversity conservation.
- Identifying cross-cutting levers of change for multiple impacts will be a key part of policy analysis and integration.
- How to gain the most information from new initiatives so that their benefits are spread as widely as possible and even develop new experiments (like the Preston model) to test innovative ways of decision-making.
- An understanding of where habitats and ecosystems can regenerate if pressures are reduced/removed and where active restoration is necessary.
- How to prioritise demands on resources (time and money) so that the most effective changes to policy are carried out first.
- Assessing where the sum of individual actions will be enough for change or where policy, legislation or regulations have to be changed to reach desired outcomes.
- How to support technology development that enhances sustainability and to support communities in adopting sustainable technologies whilst guarding against undesirable effects such as undermining small farm viability.
This report uses the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Report to structure an assessment of the impact of the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss for the Scottish context and to suggest existing and new levers of change that could be used to reduce the pressures from these drivers and to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
The bare facts are clear, with Scotland having one in nine species at risk of extinction, lost nearly half its biodiversity, an impact on planetary boundaries beyond what its population size can justify and as part of the UK, it is the 5th ranked country in exporting its biodiversity impact overseas.
However, as humanity depends upon biodiversity for a wide range of goods and benefits, the future persistence of humanity requires that these impacts need to be reversed. Global equity means that biodiversity impacts caused by countries in the developed world like Scotland should be reduced more in regions where planetary boundaries are exceeded the most.
What is clear from this report is that action has to be taken quickly across a wide range of policy areas and throughout Scottish society and business in order to shift to a sustainable future where we can rely on biodiversity to keep delivering its goods and benefits. Changes will need to reach deep including in how we assess prosperity, for instance GDP is unsuitable as a measure of societal performance and should be replaced by a measure that focusses on well-being and sustainability. However, we must accept that governments can steer change but transforming societies can have potentially unpredictable outcomes. We also need to move rapidly to a net-zero and circular economy, the latter through the elimination of waste.
As an exporter of its biodiversity impacts, Scotland will have to make hard choices about onshoring its impacts. As a net importer of food and timber, future land use decision making needs to take into account the equity issues in continuing this or whether the global biodiversity benefits of onshoring production outweigh the constraints imposed on restoration by increasing local food and timber production. Similar arguments could be made for other sectors, including marine fisheries and aquaculture.
There is likely to be resistance to the wholesale restructuring of the economy and changes in lifestyles required to repair Scottish and global ecosystems. This will come from individuals who will have to give up aspirations but also from vested interests whose continued profits stem from unsustainable industries. To ease the former and counter the latter, democratic structures should be strengthened and become more participatory. Similarly, to ensure the transition is effective, support will be necessary to less-wealthy households, for instance in the purchase of heat pumps or the improvement of insulation.
Ultimately, reducing Scottish planetary impacts, adopting a circular and net-zero economy and addressing all the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss will not, by itself, result in the recovery of biodiversity. Some habitats and ecosystems may be able to regenerate, partially or fully, but others will need active intervention. In other circumstances it may be necessary to accept novel ecosystems which develop in response to the changed climate. Consequently, restoration has to be prioritised to ensure the recovery of biodiversity and the goods and benefits we derive from them.
Part of the brief of the project was to advise on a methodology to be employed across Government bodies and other key players to identify and assess how to address reducing and removing the impact of indirect drivers on biodiversity. We suggest that a combination of Theory of Change and Scenario Planning should be used to achieve this. The former is a rigorous and transparent participatory process used to co-construct goals and how to meet them, whilst the latter brings creativity and an ability to deal with uncertainty to the process. Employing them together will help identify the correct levers for change.
Finally, the process of putting the report together highlighted areas where we either lack knowledge or knowledge has to be synthesised to make use of it in a policy setting. Some are fundamental to understanding how a diverse population needs to be engaged in the process of transforming society, whilst others are more technical and geared to improving the effectiveness of policy. This list is not comprehensive, but it can act as a start to the process of shifting society’s outlook and behaviour.
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