Scotland’s local authorities have been warned not to forget the climate emergency in budget planning.
In the wake of Covid-19, council budgets are expected to be tighter than ever, placing pressure on public services across the board.
However, conservation specialists Kaitaki Consulting, have warned MSPs that shifting the environment down the priority list isn’t an option.
Currently, 18 out of 32 Scottish local authorities have declared a climate emergency, however, Scotland’s forest cover is currently around 18%, compared to a European average of 42%.
Therefore the consultancy group is calling on Scottish authorities to increase ambitions by prioritising tree planting and habitat restoration.
The group is calling on Scotland to pursue a similar environmental agenda to New Zealand, where plans are in place to plant one billion trees by 2028.
Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee sought views on the financial sustainability of local government in Scotland. The consultancy group has said that if councils invest in native tree-planting then this can have a major positive economic benefit.
Kaitiaki Consulting is in the process of speaking to all 32 local authorities to set out the benefits of creating forests in their towns, cities and rural areas, and highlighting the value of getting involved to businesses, charities, landowners and philanthropists.
Alex Foulkes, managing director of Kaitiaki Consulting, said: ‘Widespread tree-planting across Scotland would bring a number of environmental and economic benefits.
‘The Scottish Government and councils across the country have made clear there is a climate emergency.
‘Despite the devastation of COVID-19, this emergency hasn’t gone away, and it will be more important than ever to get these decisions right going forward.
‘Local government cannot afford to ignore the environment in a post-pandemic world.
‘Councils face immediate challenges in health and social care and education, but the climate emergency must not become an after-thought.’
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