I’VE been in Montreal representing the Scottish Government at the UN’s COP15 Biodiversity summit.

The global conference takes place every two years, but this one was particularly special because it aimed to deliver a new agreement to reverse the loss of wildlife and destruction of the natural world, and to stop extinctions. Like the ground-breaking Paris Climate Agreement, but for nature.

This could not be more important for all of us, and future generations. Nature is fundamental to human life – whether it is the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, the conditions of our soils and seas or even the food we eat. All of these things depend on a healthy planet and ecosystem.

READ MORE: Doubts cast over how 'realistic' Scottish Government's hydrogen plans are

Yet, more than ever before, our nature is in crisis. Global wildlife populations have fallen by more than two thirds since 1970, and the rate is not slowing down, with the UN warning that one in eight of our plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. As Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay has said: “Protecting biodiversity amounts to protecting humanity.”

The conference aimed to agree a range of vital targets and actions to deliver this, and I’m proud that Scotland is helping lead this debate.

For example, one of the key targets being discussed is protecting 30% of our land and seas by 2030. We have committed to doing this in Scotland, and we are already making progress.

On land, we are looking at expanding our National Park network. The Cairngorms and Loch Lomond are the jewels in Scotland’s crown, and they are doing pioneering work to restore nature within the Parks. But there is no doubt we could have more, which is why I have started a process that will lead to at least one new National Park over the coming years.

The National: Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is preparing to welcome campers

At sea, we are creating a new network of highly protected marine areas. These will be like marine parks, entirely dedicated to nature protection, and they will be a first in the UK, representing a seismic shift in our approach to protecting our seas.

With the conference not set to conclude until tomorrow, it is too early to judge the conclusions and actions that are agreed. But it’s clear that the wealthier countries of the world, including the UK, need to step up. Not just in terms of protecting and restoring nature at home, but also to do our bit to support nature in the global south. That means providing the funding that is so urgently needed to protect the world’s most important ecosystems like rainforests and wetlands.

Attending COP15 for Scotland was a privilege, and our work in this area demonstrates what a positive role that we are already playing on the world stage.

Perhaps the most important contribution Scotland made to the talks was the Edinburgh process, which we led on behalf of the Convention for Biological Diversity.

READ MORE: Believe it or not, there are reasons to be cheerful about the future

It saw over 300 regions, cities and local authorities around the world sign the Edinburgh Declaration, which commits to transformative action to protect biodiversity and calls for an ambitious global deal for nature.

By working closely with other leading sub-national governments, we were able to bear influence on the talks, while supporting and encouraging each other to go further in our efforts to preserve biodiversity in our own countries.

There is a lot that we are doing in Scotland to play our part in reaching these targets.

While in Montreal I was proud to launch the Scottish Government’s new biodiversity strategy.

It is a bold and ambitious vision, and one that I am very proud of. It commits us to statutory nature restoration targets that future governments can be held accountable to, the restoration of vital habitats like Scotland’s rainforest at scale, and taking new steps to promote nature-friendly farming, fishing and forestry.

We are also increasing public investment in nature, leading the UK with our ground-breaking £65 million Nature Restoration Fund that was secured through the cooperation agreement between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government.

This is already funding fantastic nature restoration projects all across the country and bringing much needed green investment and jobs to communities, particularly in rural areas.

When we look after our environment it looks after us, yet much of Scotland’s natural environment is heavily degraded after centuries of exploitation.

Reforesting our hills, restoring our peat bogs, and healing our rivers at the pace and scale we need to is a huge challenge. But it is also an opportunity. An opportunity to build a better, greener Scotland that we all benefit from, and to do our part in the global fightback against extinctions and environmental destruction.

The scale of the task may seem daunting, but if we are to have any kind of sustainable future then this is what we must do.