RSE/SCRR Peter Wilson Lecture
As a planet, we are currently dealing with unprecedented twin crises – the Covid-19 pandemic and the global climate emergency.
In terms of the climate emergency, Scotland’s Net-Zero by 2045 target will require that we change our diets and what we grow, so agriculture will need to change – and the land also offers nature-based solutions to tackle climate change, to ensure that as a country we are more resilient to the climate change already in the pipeline, and to benefit nature and people. So, we need to change the way we farm, produce, and manage our land. Science can inform us how land management needs to change.
In this respect, another political “disaster” also offers opportunities. EU-exit means that we are no longer tied to the EU Common Agricultural Policy. This means we have an opportunity to rethink how and what type of farming and land use we want to support with public money.
In terms of the Covid-19 crisis, as we emerge from the pandemic, we will need an economic recovery package. We should not use this to support old, carbon-intensive industries; instead, we should support green, low carbon businesses. And we can make it a jobs-based recovery rather than an entirely public infrastructure-based recovery to fill the skills gap in the rural economy. Science can help us to work out where to invest.
If we are smart, we can design this economic recovery package to not only help society to recover from the damage caused by the global pandemic. We can use it to tackle the climate emergency and reboot our economy on a new, greener, fairer trajectory.
This opportunity will not come again – we must not waste it.
Dr Rebekah Widdowfield, Chief Executive, Royal Society of Edinburgh
Professor Pete Smith FRSE, University of Aberdeen
Dr Leslie Mabon, Scottish Association for Marine Science
Professor Lee Innes FRSE, Moredun Research Institute
Professor Lorna Dawson FRSE, James Hutton Institute
Professor David Reay, University of Edinburgh