‘Policy makers like to talk about helping nature and its benefits but reality can be different’ – especially for those managing tight budgets. Those of us involved in policy do sometimes get a bit carried away with exciting new things and forget the realities, so it was a good reality check at the beginning of one of the Natural Environment Parallel Sessions at the recent Scotland’s Adaptation Conference.
The aim of the two sessions on the day was to inspire and to show that the natural environment not only needs and deserves our support in the face of a changing climate but can be an asset when it comes to adaptation rather than a burden. However, it was clear from participants that despite it being appreciated, nature is not always seen as an important asset. ‘We don’t always make a persuasive argument’ regarding the benefits or ‘the economic case’.
Following introductory presentations and an initial discussion which raised some of the above points, we heard 3 inspiring examples of projects which are helping the natural environment adapt to climate change but also using nature to improve our quality of life and help us adapt too.
- Queen Elizabeth Forest Park – from Forest Research
- Seven Lochs Wetland Park – from GCVGN
- Transforming Urban Spaces – from Greenspace Scotland, including their project with partners at Hazlehead Park in Aberdeen.
The presentations sold a vision of the direct and wider benefits of their work and so it begged the question ‘What is needed to move beyond ‘inspiring examples’ – to see widespread action across Scotland?’. Participants raised a couple of barriers to mainstreaming; sometimes ‘we are trying to avoid doing the wrong thing’ and ‘The policy framework is there but translation is more difficult’. The groups also suggested that we need to actively:
- Engage communities (get community ‘push-up’ to decision makers and address top down drivers; provide information to neighbours)
- Be inspirational
- Develop robust indicators – to show what works
- Develop and use adaptation tools and guidance
- Show value and ‘win-wins’
- Develop and implement policies at the Local Plan level
- Integrate planning- e.g. with urban planning we need to avoid separate actions – for the children’s park; SUDS; the paths, etc.
- Create habitat networks and plant more trees
- Address the short-term memory of institutions
- Work in partnership – e.g. with multinationals and others who might not realise what we do or the benefits.
Perhaps the most inspiring thing of all was that for many, helping the natural environment to adapt to climate change and using nature to increase our resilience in the future is “part of what we are already doing” and it was encouraging to hear that “we are getting better” at doing it.
Presentations from the Natural Environment Parallel Sessions can be found here