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Stepping up for Scotland

Last modified: 19 June 2012

Stewart Stevenson at Rio+20

The Minister with Jaqueline Goerk, Director of SAVE Brasil, and Peter Davies the Welsh Sustainable Futures Commissioner.

Image: The RSPB

As leaders from across the globe prepare for the Rio+20 Earth Summit this week, two of the UK’s most senior environmental figures yesterday (18th June) witnessed firsthand the importance of conserving our natural heritage.

Stewart Stevenson MSP, Scotland’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Change and Caroline Spelman MP, the UK Government’s Secretary of State for the Environment were invited to visit the Tijuca National Park.

The trip, organised by the RSPB, aimed to highlight the importance of tropical forests in tackling climate change, protecting and improving biodiversity, helping communities and encouraging greater protection of the UK’s own natural environment.

Situated a short distance from the UN’s Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio, Tijuca National Park is an excellent example of how protection of the natural environment is important, both for its own sake but also for sustainable community development.  It is also home to many species of threatened wildlife and plays a crucial role in delivering a water supply to Rio and regulating the local climate.

Several hundred years ago the area was deforested, and was only replanted in the mid 19th Century after the city’s water supply started to dry up. Following this work the water supply returned which also benefited the local climate and tourism.

Rio+20 will focus on seven priority areas including: decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness.

Mr Stevenson’s attendance in Rio serves to reinforce Scotland’s commitment to world-leading climate change legislation and ambitious carbon reduction targets.

Minister for Environment and Climate Change Stewart Stevenson said:

"Scotland’s biodiversity is truly special, with a wealth of wildlife and natural habitats that enrich our lives and benefit society in so many ways."

"We know that our natural environment has a key role to play in achieving sustainable development and we must act together to protect our biodiversity for present and future generations."

"Yesterday I was delighted to visit Tujican National Park to see at first hand the tropical rainforests which are playing a vital part in protecting the natural environment and tackling climate change."

"In Scotland, we are committed to creating a healthy, sustainable natural environment that supports our communities and helps us address the challenge of climate change."

"Scotland is leading the way in tackling climate change with our ambitious climate change legislation, low carbon energy programme and leading research and development base.  We have also recently launched our innovative climate justice fund and have accepted an invitation from the United Nations to deepen our engagement with their sustainable energy agenda."

"We recognise the urgency of addressing climate change. We hope our strong  example, which I am promoting in Rio this week, can inspire other nations to equally ambitious action to achieve an equitable and sustainable future."

Lloyd Austin, Head of Conservation Policy at RSPB Scotland, added :  “RSPB Scotland is pleased that Mr Stevenson visited Tijuca to see, at first hand, how tropical forests, are vital to not only the health of our planet but also to our communities.  Talks that will be held in Rio later this week must recognise this and ensure we protect these precious areas.

“The summit will discuss the protection of the natural environment, including re-affirming commitments to global biodiversity targets agreed in 2010, as well as sustainable development and a greener economy.  We hope that Scotland can play a leading role in these discussions – and ensure that these concepts are put into practice both at home and internationally.”

How you can help

Nature is in trouble – so millions of people are stepping up to help. Our wildlife has been disappearing at an alarming rate. But small steps make a big difference. If we all act together and get stuck in, we can save our wildlife.