30 by 30 explained

Background on 30x30 to help inform the co-design of Scotland's 30x30 framework

30x30 is the commitment to protect at least 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030

Nature has been impacted by climate change and other direct pressures, resulting in a loss of biodiversity, especially over recent decades. There has been a 24% decline in the average abundance of recorded species in Scotland since 1994. 

In Scotland, nature – all use of the land and sea - must contribute to at least 40% of the transition to net zero.  This is based on the fact that around 40% of the latest greenhouse gas inventory (June 2021) is concerned with land use, namely wetlands, woodlands and farming. 

To prevent reverse biodiversity decline and bolster resilience to climate change, scientists warn that we must protect at least 30% of our lands, rivers, lakes, and wetlands by 2030. 

The challenge

A global target to protect 30% of the planet for nature by 2030 (known as ‘30x30’) is expected to be included in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, to be agreed at the forthcoming Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at COP15. Countries will be expected to contribute to this global goal through domestic action to increase coverage of effectively managed protected areas. More than 100 countries have now signed up to the commitment, including the UK. 

This aligns with the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 which commits to legally protect a minimum of 30% of the EU’s land area. 

The Scottish Government 2020 Statement of Intent on Biodiversity outlined the commitment to protect at least 30% of our land and sea for nature by 2030 and they have commissioned NatureScot to develop and publish a National Framework and Implementation Plan for terrestrial delivery of 30x30 in Scotland. This commission covers the delivery of 30x30 on land (including freshwater and coastal sites) and does not cover marine. This project is being developed alongside that of Nature Networks and is key in the delivery of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and contributing to the wider Environmental Strategy. Effective delivery of this target will significantly contribute towards tackling the nature and climate emergency. 

Current state 

Globally, only 15% of land and freshwaters are protected. In Scotland, protected areas cover around 18% of land consisting of designated sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), and Special Protected Areas (SPA). If existing National Parks were included, this increases to 23%. This means we need an increase of 7-12% to reach 30% by 2030. For comparison, 37% of Scotland’s seas are protected.  

There are currently over 1,800 protected areas for nature in Scotland. These areas protect wildlife as well as ecosystems at various scales. They also help protect vital services that nature provides for people. Currently 78% of habitats, species and geological landforms within the sites are in favourable condition

The top pressures affecting the condition of designated sites in Scotland are invasive species, overgrazing and water management. 


The first draft of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework includes the draft target:  

Target 3. ‘Ensure that at least 30 per cent globally of land areas and of sea areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and its contributions to people, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs), and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes [by 2030]’ . 

While the wording may be subject to change, Scotland have committed to delivering the substance of the target. 

The 30x30 workshop will design and develop the framework to deliver this target. The framework will include the vision, key principles, criteria, and approaches for protection, designation, governance, monitoring and management as well as policy linkages. 


The 30x30 target will help maintain global biodiversity and defend against the climate crisis. It will preserve the integrity of ecosystems on which we all depend, provide safe havens to help wildlife adapt to climate change and other pressures, and sustain natural systems that store carbon, such as forests, peatlands, wetlands, and grasslands.  

Through the co-design approach, the workshops will explore the possibilities that the target presents. We may see either the expansion of already established protected areas or the identification of new ones, it could also require the creation of OECMs – it may be that a mix of all these methods is needed.  

Whatever approach is decided upon, the goal is to produce more effective area-based conservation, delivering greater improvements for nature across better-connected areas. 

To see how you can be involved in deciding how Scotland reaches 30% of land for nature by 2030, see the Events section or contact us

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