Achieving great things for nature

Chief Executive Mike Clarke reflects on the year 2018–2019, which is also his last with the RSPB.

Welcome from the RSPB’s outgoing Chief Executive Mike Clarke

Working with others, we’ve achieved great things for nature this year.

We completed Europe’s largest coastal wetland creation project in Wallasea Island and started an ambitious habitat restoration project for the “Celtic Rainforest”. Cyprus bird trapping hit a record low. Storm petrels returned to the Shiant Isles. White-tailed eagles nested successfully on Orkney for the first time in 145 years. And, we’re restoring the fortunes of marsh fritillaries, Irish damselflies and Irish ladies’ tresses orchids at Montiaghs Moss in County Antrim, as part of Co-operation Across Borders for Biodiversity in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

But, also in 2018 the first global assessment of the state of nature was published since 2005. Nature is in a growing crisis the world over. In the last three to four decades, we’ve lost more than 40 million birds in the UK alone, and 70% of our insect population across Europe. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also injected greater urgency to the need for action within the next decade, to curb catastrophic impacts on the planet’s life support systems.

Our children and their children have the right to choose the future they want, and we share a responsibility to give them that choice. The good news is that we know much of what needs to change. There are solutions out there that work with nature, not against it. Put simply, decision makers need to give greater priority to the environment.

That’s why, in 2018–2019, we directed our efforts into campaigning for governments to make the changes needed – not just halt declines, but to drive the recovery of nature. We have campaigned for our existing nature protection laws to remain at least as strong as they are now, and for common environmental standards to be maintained in the UK’s future relationship with the EU. We have called for new laws and plans to drive nature’s recovery in all countries of the UK. And, we are helping shape the agenda for 2020, when governments will meet at the UN Convention of Biological Diversity to agree global action for nature.

The challenge is too big for any one organisation. The RSPB has a duty to ensure it makes the best contribution to this collective mission. Over the last year, we’ve taken steps to improve both our effectiveness, by focusing our resources on the work that will have the greatest future impact; and our efficiency, through changing the ways we work, making savings to increase financial resilience, and investing further in partnerships.

None of the RSPB’s success over the year could have been achieved without our members, supporters, volunteers and partners – thank you! The public groundswell of concern over the environmental crisis is growing, and supporters of charities like ours can be at the forefront of making change happen. We can choose to have personal impact now. Individually these may feel like small steps, but collectively we can make a difference at scale, and make our voice heard for a world richer in nature.

After a career at the RSPB spanning more than 30 years, 2019 is Mike Clarke’s last at the RSPB. He’s now returning to his roots as a volunteer – thank you for all you have done. We welcome Beccy Speight as our new Chief Executive, who comes to us from the Woodland Trust. We wish her the best of luck in her new role.

Mike Clarke