Council Leader and officials met NatureScot CEO to mark signing of Edinburgh Declaration & discuss biodiversity loss

Naturescot highland council meeting 1 1
NatureScot CEO Francesca Osowska (front left) meets with Highland Council Leader, Cllr Raymond Bremner (front right) to mark the local authority's signing of the Edinburgh Declaration. Also pictured (from left to right at the back) is Highland Council's Climate Change Committee Chair Cllr Karl Rosie, NatureScot's Director of Nature and Climate Change Nick Halfhide and Highland Council's Acting Depute Chief Executive & Executive Chief Officer, Performance and Governance Kate Lackie.

Senior figures at Highland Council met today (12 December 2022) with NatureScot CEO Francesca Osowska to underline its commitment to tackle the climate and ecological emergency and mark the official signing of the Edinburgh Declaration.

Highland Council Leader, Cllr Raymond Bremner signed the declaration on behalf of the local authority following a recommendation by Members at the inaugural Climate Change Committee earlier this month. 

The Edinburgh Declaration sets out the aspirations and commitments of the members of the international community, the Scottish Government, Edinburgh Process Partners, and the wider subnational community working in biodiversity in delivering for nature over the coming decade.

Highland Council’s leaders and NatureScot also used today’s meeting to discuss how both organisations can work effectively together to prevent further biodiversity loss in Highland and share information about work already ongoing.

The high-level discussions involving the Highland Council Leader and NatureScot’s CEO also involved the Chair of Highland Council’s Climate Change Committee, Cllr Karl Rosie, Highland Council Acting Depute Chief Executive & Executive Chief Officer for Performance and Governance, Kate Lackie and NatureScot's Director of Nature and Climate Change, Nick Halfhide.

The talks focused mainly on the work NatureScot and the Highland Council is already doing and will need to do to address biodiversity issues within the local authority area and was timed to coincide with COP15, the United Nation’s Biodiversity Conference which is running between 7 and 19 December in Montreal, Canada.

COP 15 is convening governments from around the world to agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade through the Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 framework process.

Leader of The Highland Council, Cllr Raymond Bremner said: “We are delighted to welcome Francesca here today to learn more about what Highland Council has been doing to protect biodiversity within Highland and address the ecological and climate emergency declared by this local authority in 2019.”

He added: “It was a privilege to have signed the Edinburgh Declaration on behalf of Highland Council By signing this agreement, the Council has reinforced its existing commitment to tackling climate change and biodiversity loss.

“It will also ensure the continued provision of the nature services on which we all depend, the delivery of net zero targets and allow us to tackle and adapt to a rapidly changing climate.”

Francesca Osowska, NatureScot’s Chief Executive said: “We welcome Highland Council signing the Edinburgh Declaration, demonstrating its strong commitment to tackle the nature and climate change emergencies. The Highlands is a beautiful and special place, and it is crucial we continue to build on the work – such as peatland restoration, tree regeneration and much more – to protect and restore nature throughout the region.”

She added: “With a 24% decline in nature over the last 30 years, we are in a full-scale nature crisis. We also know that we are facing a climate emergency.  These crises are linked and by tackling one, we tackle both.

“The good news is how much we can do to make a difference; in fact, nature-based solutions make up 40% of Scotland’s net zero journey. It’s vital that all of Scotland – from local authorities like Highland Council to corporations, small businesses, land managers, non-government organisations and communities and citizens – comes together for us to have a chance of meeting global biodiversity targets.”

Information on the biodiversity work already being done by Highland Council

Scotland is facing a twin reinforcing crises of climate change and biodiversity loss: a decline in biodiversity will exacerbate the climate crisis, and a changing climate will accelerate the rate of biodiversity loss.

On behalf of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Scottish Government has led a global partnership in the ‘Edinburgh Process’ – Consultation with sub-national governments, including regional, city and local authorities on their role in the post 2020 global biodiversity targets.

A key output of the Edinburgh Process is the Edinburgh Declaration, which demonstrates the commitment, and recognises the vital role, of sub-national authorities, cities and local authorities across the world in working to deliver for nature over the next decade.

Aberdeenshire Council became the first Scottish Council to sign the Declaration in November 2020 and were soon followed by several other local authorities. Approximately 14 Scottish local authorities plus the two National Park authorities have now become signatories.

In addition to the local authorities and national parks, other high-profile Scottish signatories include NatureScot, the Scottish Land Commission, CoSLA and the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.

In October 2021, in partnership with NatureScot, a jointly funded ‘Biodiversity Partnership Officer’ was employed to lead on biodiversity matters within the Highland Council.

In addition to responding to consultations on NPF4, Land Reform, National Parks, the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy amongst others, the post has led on delivery of the Council’s allocation of the Nature Restoration Fund.

In 21/22 the Highland Council funded 27 separate community, charity or internal projects aimed at creation and restoration of biodiverse habitats in the Highlands. These included tree/woodland planting, wetland restoration, invasive non-native plant removal and wildflower meadow creation.

The next financial year (22/23) will see many more community nature projects, as applications are currently being assessed.

Recently, through a successful bid to the Transformation Fund, two more posts were added to the Biodiversity Team.

An Ecology Planner is starting imminently, to ensure planning policy compliance in relation to new planning policy aimed at biodiversity enhancements as well as providing expertise to planning officers on ecology, biodiversity enhancement measures and working with developers to ensure the best outcomes for nature.

The second post will be looking at nature-based solutions and how they can provide opportunities to meet our climate change targets and help deliver net-zero and improve biodiversity outcomes at the same time.

The Council’s Ecology Survey Team continue to provide essential ecological advice to Council services, including the capital programme.

Naturescot highland council meeting 2 1

Senior officials, including NatureScot CEO Francesca Osowska and Highland Council Leader Cllr Raymond Bremner, discuss how both organisations can work together to tackle biodiversity loss


12 Dec 2022