A nice beaver, yesterday

Scottish beaver population boosted, as world leaders plan nature-focused COP15

Image credit: Niklas Hamann | Unsplash

A strategy to further expand Scotland’s beaver population in the coming decades has been developed. Meanwhile, other biodiversity commitments have been announced as world leaders declare December's nature summit COP15 a priority.

Scotland’s 'Beaver Strategy 2022-2045' involves more than 50 stakeholder organisations and represents one of the most ambitious approaches to managing and conserving the species. The new national strategy has been developed to expand Scotland’s beaver population for decades to come.

Beavers create wetland habitats that help wildlife thrive as well as reducing flood risks for farmland and human settlements.

The Beaver Strategy aims to assess how to support communities to maximise the environmental benefits of beavers, while minimising any negative effects through appropriate management and mitigation.

The strategy highlights the need for ongoing monitoring of the beaver population and its effects to improve management as the species expands.

It is estimated that Scotland’s existing beaver population is comprised of around 954 animals across 254 territories, according to NatureScot figures.

The strategy was developed collaboratively under a process designed and led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG).

The cross-stakeholder team included representatives from NatureScot, the National Farmers Union of Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Land and Estates and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. A new Scottish Beaver Advisory group will now work to bring the strategy forward.

Biodiversity minister Lorna Slater commented: “Just 25 years ago most people would not have imagined that beavers would soon return as a member of our Scottish fauna. Now they are returning we have a responsibility to look after and value them – to learn to live alongside these remarkable animals.

“This strategy, and our work together to deliver it, is an important and welcome step towards this goal. I have no doubt of the positive impact that delivering it will have on the natural environment across the country, as beavers re-engineer and restore rivers and create wetlands.

“Recognising the concerns and requests made by stakeholders during the development of this strategy, the Scottish Government will support the expansion of beavers across the country, whilst ensuring land managers are supported to live alongside beavers.”

NatureScot’s chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “Our ambitious long-term vision is to see the beaver population expand across Scotland, co-existing successfully with communities.

“Beavers can play an important role in helping to restore biodiversity and respond to the climate emergency in Scotland and we aim to see further releases into new catchments in Scotland this year. At the same time, it’s essential that this happens in a way that takes into account the views of local communities living in these areas.

“NatureScot is committed to taking a lead role in implementing this strategy and much work is already under way, including mapping to prioritise suitable catchments, and conversations with a range of individuals and organisations to discuss possible new areas for beavers. Alongside this, we will continue to provide advice and support for managing and mitigating beaver impacts.”

Sarah Robinson, director of conservation at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “Biodiversity is declining at a faster rate now than at any time in human history. Beavers provide a nature-based solution to tackling the growing crisis.

“The national strategy sets out how to help beavers become established throughout Scotland’s lochs, burns and rivers, and the many ways that both people and wildlife will benefit from their presence. We need to act urgently to implement this forward-looking strategy.”

The Beaver Strategy announcement comes on the same day as a raft of biodiversity commitments aimed at catalysing biodiversity finance and conservation were announced in New York, as world leaders declared the forthcoming nature summit COP15 to be a priority.

The new commitments were unveiled at a high-level event convened on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to showcase action and support for a nature-positive world.

New initiatives announced include close to €1bn of new funding from the German government; a 10-point plan for financing biodiversity, endorsed by 16 initial countries, and the next phase of the 'High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People' (aka 'HAC for Nature and People 2.0') which supports the protection of at least 30 per cent of land and ocean globally. The initiatives were announced by the minister of foreign affairs of Costa Rica on behalf of the President of Costa Rica.

An accelerator for action on biodiversity was also announced by the minister of environment and sustainable development of Colombia on behalf of the President of Colombia.

The announcement that Germany is increasing its international biodiversity funding to €1.5bn per year, an increase of €0.87bn from the German government’s average funding between 2016-2020, represents the highest total international yearly financial commitment to date of all industrialised countries to biodiversity conservation.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “The UN Biodiversity Conference in December needs to be a turning point for our conservation efforts. Germany resolutely supports the idea of an ambitious global framework on biodiversity. Such a framework needs a strong implementation mechanism that sets us on a path to saving and restoring our ecosystems.

“Protecting at least 30 per cent of our land and oceans plays a crucial role in this. At the G7 Summit in Germany, we agreed to substantially increase funding for nature by 2025. Germany is doing its part and will continue to do so. As part of our commitment to an international climate finance budget of €6bn annually by 2025 at the latest, we will increase our biodiversity funding massively to €1.5bn per year. With this contribution, we want to send a strong signal for an ambitious outcome of the biodiversity COP15.”

Today's event - 'Countdown to COP15: Landmark Leaders’ Event for a Nature-Positive World' - saw world leaders declare the success of COP15 a priority for their governments and call for all countries to work together to secure an ambitious global biodiversity agreement in Montreal in the face of an escalating nature crisis that is threatening health, food security and livelihoods, whilst simultaneously undermining climate action and sustainable development.

Attending leaders reaffirmed their commitment to reverse biodiversity loss and secure a nature-positive world by 2030, including through adopting a transformative biodiversity agreement at COP15 in Montreal. Also reaffirmed by those present were commitments to protect and conserve at least 30 per cent of land and ocean by 2030; to transform production and consumption to be well within planetary boundaries, and ensure an equitable transition to nature-positive economies.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “Canada stepped up to host COP15 – the Nature COP – in Montreal this December because we know what’s at stake; healthy land and waters, strong economies, and a bright future for generations to come. At home, Canada is making historic progress to reach our commitment to protect 30 per cent of our land and 30 per cent of our oceans by 2030.

“On the world stage, including at COP15, we will continue to mobilise global support to reach this target and protect biodiversity around the planet. This is the moment for the world to come together and agree on an ambitious global plan to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity and set our natural world on the path to recovery.”

Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves Robles said: “For the last three years, Costa Rica has championed the critical global goal to protect at least 30 per cent of our planet's land and ocean by 2030 through the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and its 103 members.

“Today, we are announcing that our coalition has taken the important next step by committing to ensure the implementation of the '30by30' target with the support of governments, philanthropists, academia, indigenous peoples representatives and local communities.

“Costa Rica is totally committed to take action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and I reaffirm my country's determination to work tirelessly to achieve a robust global agreement for nature at the Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 taking place in Montreal, in December.

“This is our once-in-a-decade chance to act together to prevent the collapse of the natural systems that provide our food, clean water, clean air and stable climate that are the basis of our global economy.”

Unveiled by the governments of Ecuador, Gabon, the Maldives and the UK, the 'Political Vision: The 10 Point Plan for Financing Biodiversity' document aims to provide a comprehensive way forward for governments and the finance sector to ensure the protection of nature receives the appropriate level of investment.

The plan also includes commitments to increase international and domestic funding for biodiversity from all sources, reduce harmful expenditures and align public and private flows to be nature-positive.

Interventions from indigenous leaders highlighted the key stewardship role played by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) in protecting 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity and that direct funding of IPLC efforts should be front and centre, alongside recognition of their rights, in efforts to secure a nature-positive world.

Leaders from financial institutions, business, civil society organisations, and agencies such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) further underlined that the world must not miss the opportunity presented by COP15, and the critical need to agree a way forward on biodiversity finance.

The 'Fifteenth Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity' (COP15) is scheduled to take place in Montreal, Canada, December 7-19 2022, under the Presidency of China. The conference represents a once-in-a-decade opportunity to agree a global plan to tackle biodiversity loss.

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