Volunteers working at Dove Stones RSPB reserve, Peak District

Adapting sustainability across the economy

Climate change is already happening. Thanks to historical emissions and the lag in the climate system, some level of further change is inevitable.

Sustainable adaptation

Our adaptation to climate change can be to the benefit or detriment of the natural world.

If we consider nature in our adaption plans and even make use of the ecosystem services it provides us with, then both people and wildlife will benefit.

However, if we pay no regard to the natural world as we plan our adaptation, the actions we take could do more damage to wildlife than the direct impacts of climate change itself.

For example, we expect to see hotter, drier summers as a result of climate change, with more frequent periods of drought. If we respond by taking more water, for farming and for using in our homes, from water courses with already low levels, we will exacerbate the negative impacts for river wildlife (eg by concentrating pollutants).

If, however, we take efforts to prepare for these periods of drought by wasting less and storing water from increased winter rainfall in water butts in our gardens, or at a larger scale, reservoirs on farms, we can avoid additional pressure on wildlife in summer. Better still, if farm reservoirs are appropriately sited and managed to benefit wildlife, they can provide new habitat and increase farm biodiversity.

Action to tackle emissions is also vital to protect us from the most dangerous impacts of climate change. Find out more about our energy policy.

Our vision

The UK Climate Change Act (2008) clearly states that the objectives of the national adaptation programme must contribute to sustainable development.

This important commitment establishes a precedent for sustainable adaptation in the UK.

We believe sustainable adaptation is vital if we are to ensure a future rich in wildlife, and advocate to government and business that it should incorporate the following principles:

  • Recognition that a healthy natural environment will underpin society's adaptation.
  • Adaptation action should not adversely impact on the natural environment.
  • Ecosystem-based adaptation solutions to climate impacts should be prioritised wherever possible.
  • Action should be taken by other sectors to support wildlife’s adaptation to climate change.
Small scale trials of potential solutions to farmland bird decline before use in larger scale research trials or agri-environment scheme options at RSPB Hope Farm