World Environment Day: Maintaining the Momentum

A blog by Richard Baldwin, SSEN’s Head of Environment

Cast your mind back, just a few months before the coronavirus epidemic became part of everyday life and you will remember the news feeds were buzzing with a ‘call to action’ on climate change and the unprecedented decline in Biodiversity. Whilst not as prominent on the front pages right now, the messages from scientists across the globe is clear – we need to maintain the momentum and drive forward implementing our targets to reduce emissions and halt the unprecedented decline in biodiversity.

Last week SSE Chief Executive, Alistair Phillips-Davies, wrote to Boris Johnson setting out our ‘Greenprint’ for building a cleaner and more resilient economy and this has really helped ‘join the dots’ on how supporting the UK to recover from the economic and social effects of lockdown can help get the country on track to meet our climate action commitments. A real win-win (they don’t come around at this scale that often!). It is well worth a read and has got good coverage from industry, academics and nature bodies alike.

This is a timely intervention as on Friday (5th June) we celebrate World Environment Day where, individuals, businesses and governments across the globe also come together to raise awareness and take action on urgent environmental issues. The focus this year on Biodiversity is very close to my heart as over the past 50 years there has been a 60% decline in the abundance of key priority species within the UK.

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Why does this matter? Well the truth is that thriving biodiversity (species, habitats and ecosystems) provides key functions that are essential for our existence, including:

  • pollination of the crops eat;
  • cleaning the air we breath;
  • purifying the water we drink;
  • source of medicines to keep us well;
  • reducing flooding to project our homes; and
  • providing an environment for us to enjoy for wider our wellbeing (often forgotten, but very important)

A reduction in these ecosystem services (particularly at the current rate) will very quickly begin to impact our health, wellbeing and prosperity. It is therefore critical that we play our part, not only in halting the decline, but where possible ‘enhancing’ the areas in which we work. It is for this reason I’m absolutely delighted our new SSE Environment Strategy puts a spotlight on the ‘Natural Environment’ and each business area is setting targets on Biodiversity. Leading the way on this are Transmission and Renewables who have both set targets for their new projects to achieve ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ by 2025. This, together with the fact we were one of the first to call for net zero emissions in the UK, the entrenchment of sustainability at the heart of our business and the publication of our Greenprint gives SSE the legitimacy required to be advocates for policy changes at the heart of government.

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