2 WHY THIS MATTERS: THE CONTEXT FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Deforestation in BrazilWIDESPREAD FLOODING DEVASTATED SEVERAL CENTRAL EUROPEAN CITIES IN 2002 WHILE AN UNPRECEDENTED HEAT WAVE LED TO OVER 20,000 ADDITIONAL DEATHS IN 2003. SCOTLAND IS STARTING TO EXPERIENCE MORE FREQUENT EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS, AND STORMS AND FLOODING ARE PROJECTED TO BECOME MORE FREQUENT IN FUTURE DECADES
2.1 At the start of the 21st century countries across the world are facing up to the global threat of unsustainable development, causing damage to such an extent that the planet cannot sustain human life, leading to a world where future generations would no longer have the resources to meet their needs.
2.2 This is no longer a distant threat: it is happening now. Unsustainable development across the world is changing habitats and climates, overexploiting resources and creating pollution. If current patterns continue, damage to the natural world will accelerate, not diminish.
2.3 These changes cannot be seen as 'just' an environmental problem. We can already see the dramatic human consequences of changes in the global environment. Extreme weather patterns caused by climate change are linked to increased cycles of drought across Africa, triggering deepening food shortages and exacerbating hunger. Widespread flooding devastated several central European cities in 2002 while an unprecedented heat wave led to over 20,000 additional deaths in 2003. Scotland is starting to experience more frequent extreme weather events, and storms and flooding are projected to become more frequent in future decades.
IF EVERYONE ON EARTH LIVED THE SAME WAY, IT IS ESTIMATED THAT THREE PLANETS WOULD BE NEEDED TO SUSTAIN US. A KEY OBJECTIVE FOR THIS STRATEGY MUST BE TO REDUCE THE SIZE OF THAT GLOBAL FOOTPRINT
2.4 Facing up to these challenges means changing the way that we live and develop: as individuals, as a nation and as part of a global society. In an increasingly global economy, we rely on imports of food, raw materials and manufactured goods from and exports to many nations. That challenges us to consider the impact of the resources that we are consuming.
2.5 One way of measuring this is our ecological footprint, an estimate of the land and sea area needed to provide all the energy, water, transport, food and materials that we consume. In 2001, the average Scot had an ecological footprint 2.4 times the global average 2. If everyone on Earth lived the same way, it is estimated that three planets would be needed to sustain us. A key objective for this strategy must be to reduce the size of that global footprint.
2.6 These priorities for Scotland and across the UK are our response to these challenges:
- Sustainable consumption and production: achieving more with less. This includes reducing the inefficient use of resources, looking at the impact of products and materials across their whole lifecycle and encouraging people to think about the social and environmental consequences of their purchasing choices.
- Climate change and energy: securing a profound change in the way we generate and use energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Natural resource protection and environmental enhancement: protecting our natural resources, building a better understanding of environmental limits, and improving the quality of the environment.
- Sustainable communities: creating communities that embody the principles of sustainable development locally.
2.7 We will achieve these changes in Scotland only by learning and embracing new approaches to the way that we go about things, whether that is as individuals, businesses, communities or government. We must all learn to:
- respect the limits of the planet's environment, resources and biodiversity
- use resources as efficiently as possible - including reducing the need for them in the first place
- get much better at thinking about the long-term consequences of our actions - and their global as well as the national and local consequences
- develop a much more integrated approach to tackling problems and identifying solutions.
2.8 Sustainable development presents us with a framework for thinking about the future: the kind of world we want to live in and the legacy we want to leave behind for future generations. The actions we are taking are driven by a vision of the future we want to build, a Scotland that:
- is a leader in green enterprise
- has transformed its approach to waste, reducing our dependency on landfill
- is maximising the potential of our renewable energy sources
- has a vibrant, low-carbon economy
- provides a quality environment for all.
2.9 This future is within reach. We can all play a part in making it happen.