While many commentators believe Glasgow’s COP26 did not go far enough in mandating ways to fight climate change, NatureScot CEO Francesca Osowska is determined to see the positives.

“We didn’t get 1.5 degrees and there’s real disappointment – for some people anger – around that but the positive is we’re going in the right direction.

“COP26 blazed a trail in being the first COP to have a dedicated day for nature,” she notes, “so we were starting from a perspective of the importance of nature being recognised – the wording of the agreement of the Glasgow Climate Pact included nature. We feel it is moving up the agenda, which is really positive.”

Solutions in agriculture and nature must deliver 30% of global cuts in carbon emissions. In Scotland, it’s even higher at 40%, a consequence of deep cuts already made in a number of other sectors in Scotland. So in going for net zero, targeting emissions from land and sea use must be a priority.

“If we are to make serious inroads into this 40%, we really need to push the boundaries in terms of how we look at nature-based solutions,” says Osowska, “both in terms of land use and at sea, but also in areas such as nature in our urban environments and active travel.

“I think the Scottish Government is absolutely committed to that agenda. Now we actually need to go and do it. We need to restore more peatland. We need to make sure we have the marine protected areas that are going to retain carbon-rich sea grass and kelp. We need to make sure we have green infrastructure across Scotland. We need woodland creation. We need to accelerate all of that.”

Major growth in nature-based jobs is expected in Scotland and the NatureScot CEO would like to see a step change in investment from the private sector into our natural assets, benefiting society at large. Such investment, she believes, can generate many benefits from nature-based solutions to climate. “Public and private investment must work together, delivering demonstrable benefits to nature and people.

“A lot has been made of individual responsibility but there’s also been a debate about the presence and role of businesses at COP26. From my perspective, I think that business engagement is vital – they have a critical role to play by cutting their emissions and investing to reach net zero.

“They have to be part of the conversation. So the spotlight at COP26 on the specific actions that business must take is great.

“In terms of private finance, to have the conversation with a range of different people, from landowners to communities to institutional investors and bring those views to the table is something that we absolutely need to do and is something we’re very committed to doing. We’ll continue to do that in the run-up to the 15th biodiversity COP.”

Osowska is confident that nature is moving up the global agenda. However, she adds: “The global south get it. They understand the value of nature and the importance of focusing on protection and restoration. The global north is still taking nature for granted and this needs to change.”

Meantime, the talking is far from over. The first part of COP15 took place virtually in October. The second reconvenes in Kunming, China, next year, where around 195 countries are expected to finalise a new accord to halt and reverse losses of the planet’s plants, animals and ecosystems. While the summit hopes to set both long-term goals for mid-century and shorter-term targets for 2030 and, crucially, push for those to be enshrined in national policies, for Osowska it also presents an opportunity to shape a new biodiversity strategy in Scotland.

“International delegates at COP15 will reflect on what COP26 achieved and hopefully see that nature-based solutions have come of age. And with each successive climate COP, more concrete commitments are being made.

“I think that is going to ramp up the pressure in terms of translating the theory into hard practice, hard commitments and hopefully positive results,” says Osowska. 

“We have a really good platform on which to build for COP15.”




NATURE-BASED jobs already make up at least 195,000 jobs or 7.5% of Scotland’s workforce. With an increase in nature-based jobs expected, NatureScot has launched an action plan to help ensure that we have the workforce skills in Scotland that we need to deliver nature-based solutions.

It will serve as an initial route map to develop the skills and job opportunities needed to secure a green recovery from the pandemic and continue the transition to net zero by 2045.

The action plan sets out how NatureScot, working with partners, aims to fill skills gaps and realise the potential of jobs within the nature-based sector.

An aim is to inspire and engage young people with the growing number of roles available.

With this in mind, NatureScot is contributing through its own £1 million youth employment programme, supporting 37 modern apprenticeships and student and graduate placements.

The Scottish Government’s £100m Green Jobs Fund is already under way and, over the next five years and alongside businesses and organisations, this will support new opportunities for green job creation.

Meantime, in a bid to help businesses to tackle the biodiversity and climate crises, the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital has created a free-to-use website – 100 Business Actions for Nature.

This resource aims to assist in building nature and climate into decision-making. It’s hoped it will prove vital in progressing Sustainable Development Goals, with companies using the site to source information, share ideas and kickstart action plans.